Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


During 2020 the Spanish Government continued working in the Energy and Climate National Integrated Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC), and the Energy Transition and Climate Change Law. Both documents will fix the framework to develop new energy infrastructures, the energy source targets for 2030 and new rules to boost renewable energy in general and, hopefully, ocean energy specifically.
The Ministry for the Ecological Transition has also opened a public consultation process of the Roadmap for the development of Offshore Wind and Ocean Energies in Spain. In a first step, the roadmap establishes the need of high TRL development support programs, to help the sector reach a certain maturity prior to support. In a second step, the roadmap bid for demonstration projects. Additionally, the PNIEC proposes to adapt the administrative procedure to accelerate the obtaining of licenses and permits for high TRL R&D grid connected projects. The elaboration of this document contributes to the fulfilment of the PNIEC and is in line with the route marked in the draft of the Climate Change and Energy Transition Law. The energy policy relays on the new Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the main permits needed to develop an ocean energy power plant (environmental, use of the marine space, energy production) have to be approved by this Ministry. The PNIEC, still at draft stage, sets for ocean energy the target of reaching 25 MW of installed capacity for 2025 and 50 MW for 2030. The renewable energy contribution is expected to reach 42% in 2030. The Basque Government approved in 2016 its Energy Strategy for 2030, which included a specific initiative to speed up technology and commercial development for marine energy and set a target of 10 MW by 2030.
Regarding the use of marine space, the Government is writing the maritime space management plan. It is comprised by five management plans must be developed, one for each of the five marine areas established in Law 41/2010, on the protection of the marine environment. A first draft has been written and went under public consultation (still ongoing) during 2020. It is currently being reviewed by the Ministry, together with the Autonomous Regions. The cartographic information contained in these documents can be consulted in the InfoMAR geographic viewer, Marine Environment Information System, also currently under construction
Regarding the regulatory framework, no dedicated consenting process exists for ocean energy technologies in Spain but there are several legal documents affecting ocean energy projects and in June 2020 a new one was approved to start the change to a new legal framework. The most important are the following ones:

  • Royal Decree 1028/2007 establishes the administrative procedure for processing applications for electricity generating facilities in territorial waters. Although it focuses on offshore wind, it also includes electricity generation from other marine renewable technologies.
  • Law 2/2013, of 29 May, for protection and sustainable use of coastal and amending the previous Coastal Law of 1988. It provides the legal framework for occupation of the territorial sea, as well as governing issues affecting the fishing sector and safety conditions for maritime navigation.
  • Law 21/2013, of December 9th, establishes a simplified process on Environmental Impact Assessment for all marine energy projects.
  • Royal Decree-Law 23/2020, of June 23, which approves measures in the field of energy and in other areas for economic reactivation.
  • Royal Decree 960/2020, of November 3, which regulates the economic regime of renewable energies for electricity production facilities.
There are no specific market incentives for ocean energy in Spain but for renewable energy installations in general.
Royal Decree 413/2014 established that support for new renewable facilities is granted through competitive public tender processes. Through these auction processes, bidders propose the initial value for the investment that they will be willing to accept, and the MW auctioned are allocated to the most competitive offers (the lower ones).
Royal Decree 960/2020, of November 3, which regulates the economic regime of renewable energies for electricity production facilities and Order TED / 1161/2020, of December 4, which regulates the first auction mechanism for the granting of the economic regime of renewable energies and establishes the indicative calendar for the period 2020-2025, will allow starting the tender calendar for the next five years.
The above mentioned Order TED / 1161/2020 establishes a tender of 20 MW every two years focused on “Other Technologies”, where ocean energy is included, reaching 60 MW for 2025. If PNIEC is fulfilled, 25 MW of those 60 MW should be ocean energy.
There are several national and regional funding programmes to support R&D and demonstration projects in Spain but most of them are no specific for ocean energy. The only two programmes focused on ocean energy are:
  • OCEANERA-NET COFUND (2017-2021) is an initiative of eight national and regional government agencies from six European countries, which has received funding from the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation. The participating countries/regions are: the Basque Country, Brittany, Ireland, Pays de la Loire, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Sweden. The aim is to coordinate support for research and development in ocean energy, to encourage collaborative projects that tackle some of the key challenges identified for the sector as it progresses towards commercialisation.
  • The Basque Energy Agency (EVE) launched a new call of its “Demonstration and validation of emerging marine renewable energy technologies” programme in 2020. As previous calls, the programme has a budget of 2,5 M€ for a maximum of 3-year duration projects.


Consenting processes

There is no specific Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) policy.

Pre-selected areas for ocean energy development have not been defined. Site selection is carried out on a case-by-case analysis. In the Basque country, in the case of Biscay Marine Energy Platform (BIMEP), a MSP approach was used for selecting the site.

The authorities involved in the consenting process are:

  • The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, through the Coasts Directorate-General – is in charge of the authorizations and concessions regarding the occupation of maritime-terrestrial areas. This ministry will also act as the decision making body for all the environmental aspects;
  • The Ministry of Development, through the Merchant Navy Directorate-General – authorizes the precise activities when they affect maritime safety, navigation and human life at sea;
  • In case of public ports occupation, the competent port authority shall grant authorization or concession;
  • Regional governments can participate in the process depending on their competences. In particular, regional governments (there are 17 in Spain) are the decision-making bodies when the site is in internal sea areas (i.e. sea areas lying between two capes).

The total time needed to obtain approval is approximately two years but this timeframe varies between projects.

For instance, consenting of BIMEP started in July 2008 and ended in 2012 with the concession of marine-terrestrial public domain and the authorization for project execution. In contrast, the consenting of the Mutriku wave power plant took less than two years as it is located onshore and consequently was subject to the consenting process applicable for an ‘ordinary’ renewable energy plant. The reason for such time variability to obtain the final consent is attributed to whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required or not.

The new EIA law in Spain since 2013 aims to reduce the time scale needed for obtaining the Environmental Authorization, establishing a time period of no more than 4 months, or 6 months if there are justified reasons, thus reducing significantly the time needed for this consenting process which was about 3 to 24 months according to the previous law from 2008.

The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce, through the Energy Policy and Mines Directorate-General, is the decision-making body and it is responsible for granting the administrative authorization. However, in practice, there are more bodies involved in the process and developers need to deal with them.

An EIA is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

According to Law 21/2013, of 9 December, all projects devoted to the production of energy on the marine environment are subject to be evaluated through a simplified environmental impact assessment process. The entity responsible for the decision on whether an EIA is required or not is the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

There are not too many experiences related with EIA baseline and post-monitoring steps. The most interesting case can be BIMEP where an environmental monitoring plan was carried out. For example, this included monitoring activities during the installation of the electrical cables.

In Spain, no dedicated consenting process exists ocean energy technologies.

The consenting process is based on three main legal instruments that are briefly outlined here.

  • Royal Decree 1028/2007, of 20 July – establishes the administrative procedure for processing applications for electricity generating facilities in territorial waters. Although it focuses on offshore wind, it also includes electricity generation from other marine renewable technologies (Article 32). This Decree foresees a simplified procedure governed by Royal Decree 1955/2000, of 1 December, which provides that construction, extension, modification and exploitation of all electric installations listed (in Article 111) require the following administrative procedures and sanctions to be followed:
    • Request for Administrative Authorization (AA) – refers to the project’s draft installation plan as a technical document;
    • Project Execution Approval (AEP) – refers to the commissioning of the specific project and allows the applicant to start construction;
    • Exploitation Authorization (EA) – allows the installations, once the project is installed, to be powered up and proceed to commercial exploitation.
  • Law 21/2013, of 9 December, on Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Law 2/2013, of 29 May, for protection and sustainable coastal use and amending the previous Coastal Law of 1998. It provides the legal framework for occupation of the territorial sea, as well as governing issues affecting the fishing sector and safety conditions for maritime navigation. Management and surveillance competences relating to the Public Maritime Domain on Land (MTPD), which includes the territorial sea, rest with the General Council on Coast and Ocean Sustainability which forms part of the Ministry of rural, Marine and Natural Environment. Coastal Demarcation Departments are their representatives in each coastal province and Autonomous Community. Therefore, the development of electric power projects in the territorial sea must comply with the legal requirements governing the administrative process for granting titles to territorial occupation (prior to and during the project development) and associated arrangements (e.g. deadlines, transfers and expiry.

Legislation and regulation that have been adapted to better suit ocean energy:

  • The new law for EIA substantially reduces the time for obtaining the Environmental Impact Authorization;
  • Royal Decree 1028/2007 – it is simplified for ocean energy since a competitive procedure between promoters (which applied for offshore wind) is not considered for ocean energy.

Consultation is usually required as part of the legal licensing process. It is usually made after the Environmental Impact Statement is delivered to the authorities for approval.

Advices are asked by the licensing authority to a number of statutory consultees namely Institute of Nature Conservation, port authorities and a number of public authorities responsible for marine resources management.

There are informal consultation activities implemented during the licensing process: usually developers prepare a number of informal public events to disseminate the project and collect the public feed-back on their activities at sea.

It is clear to applicants what permits are required, in what order and what information must be supplied at what time, but no specific guideline (single document) is available for developers.

Deployment at Bimep is already pre-consented so developers do not have to submit a full application comprising all the typical consents providing certain initial conditions are met.

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