United Kingdom

Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


Energy policy within the UK is made more complex by the presence of devolved administrations, who have differing levels of autonomy. On a national level, matters of energy policy are mainly devolved to Northern Ireland and partly devolved to Wales and Scotland. The responsibility for enacting policy designed to tackle climate change is devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, however the UK government retains control over many energy and emissions reductions policy areas.
The Climate Change Act (2008) set in legislation the UK’s approach to tackling and responding to the global climate emergency and sets the UK’s long-term legally binding target to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050. The UK is committed to maintaining a robust and resilient climate policy framework that ensures global temperature rise is limited to 1.5°C. Within the UK, the responsibility for tackling climate change and developing energy policy lies with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). BEIS has a wide policy remit that covers energy and clean growth, science, research and innovation and climate change. The Department’s energy-related strategic objectives are to:
  • Ensure the UK’s energy system is reliable and secure;
  • Deliver affordable energy for households and businesses;
  • Support clean growth and promote global action to tackle climate change
In line with its decision to host COP26, the UK government has set out plans to establish the UK as a world leader in green energy, bolstering its commitment towards net-zero emissions by 2050 with a series of high-level policy papers published by BEIS.
“The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”, published in 2020, laid the groundwork for ambitious policies and significant new public investment, while seeking to mobilise private investment.

The “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener”, published in 2021, aims to keep the country on track for meeting the UK carbon budgets, our 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution, and net zero by 2050. In addition to this, the report also acknowledges that the UK possesses some of the best ocean energy resources in the world and highlights the ongoing efforts to explore their role in meeting our net zero targets. 

The UK government has also adopted the Committee on Climate Change’s Sixth Carbon Budget into law, placing the UK firmly on the path to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, with robust reduction targets also set for 2030. The Sixth Carbon Budget acknowledged that there continues to be a requirement for large-scale funding to bring nascent renewable technologies, such as wave and tidal, to fruition. The government has also indicated that accelerated renewable deployment will be achieved by continuing the support offered by the CfD scheme, with the fourth allocation round offering a total of £285m. This represents the largest commitment yet by the government and is considered crucial to fulfilling the ambitious targets to double the capacity of renewable energy secured in the 2019 round.
The Welsh Government remains committed to unlocking the energy potential contained in Welsh waters by supporting the delivery of marine energy projects. In March 2021, the Senedd Cymru approved a net zero target for 2050, compared to 1990 levels. Wales also has a target of producing 70% of its electricity needs from renewable resources by the year 2030, with an aim of capturing at least 10% of the potential tidal stream and wave energy off the Welsh coastline by 2025. Current European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) grants support a number of projects aimed at establishing Wales as a centre for marine energy production. This includes the Marine Energy Test Area (META) and Morlais test and demonstration zones, as well as technology developers such as Bombora, Minesto, Nova Innovation and Marine Power Systems.
Marine Energy Wales (MEW) is the industry-led stakeholder group representing the wave, tidal and floating offshore wind industries in Wales. MEW brings together project and technology developers, test centres, wider sectoral alliances, the supply chain, academia, and the public sector to establish Wales as a global leader in sustainable offshore energy generation. To date, over £150m has been spent in Wales on the development of the marine energy industry, also including supply chain and academic research interests. This included an investment of £29.1m over the last year, indicating that the sector continues to grow and show resilience in spite of the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. This success is owed in part to the rising domestic interest in the sector, supported by a comprehensive government led policy drive. The MEW 2021 State of the Sector report details that 20 emerging renewable energy developers are actively progressing projects in Wales and that 465 MW of marine energy sites have been leased in Welsh waters.
Wales continues to build a pathway towards the commercialisation of the sector, with leading marine energy developers Bombora and Minesto establishing assembly and export centres close to the Pembrokeshire and Morlais Array Demonstration Zones. In addition to this, Wales has invested £8.5m into the development of a national test centre network; the Marine Energy Test Area at Milford Haven; the TIGER tidal test site at Ramsey Sound; and the ORE Catapult delivered Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence. These will continue to attract not only the interests of UK based technology developers, but also continue to nurture successful international relationships.
Major developments with benefits for marine energy in Wales announced in 2021 include:
  • The launch of the Welsh Government’s Marine Energy Programme: Tidal Lagoon Challenge, inviting parties to submit expressions of interest for tidal range projects in Wales.
  • The Climate Change Ministry in Welsh Government, which brings together key government departments to ensure a cohesive approach to Wales’s climate change response.
  • Consents secured for META, Wales’ National Marine Energy Test centre and the Morlais Tidal Array Demonstration Zone.
  • Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment in their new Programme for Government in support of the marine energy sector.
  • A dedicated pot for tidal stream energy in the CfD allocation round.
  • Welsh Government’s Deep Dive into Renewable Energy, highlighting a series of recommendations to reduce barriers and enable the accelerated development of the sector.
  • In December the Welsh Government announced its intention to establish an emerging marine technology revenue support mechanism to sit alongside the UK Government’s CFD.   
The Scottish Government has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2045, compared to 1990 levels. In December 2020, the Scottish Government updated its Climate Change Plan, outlining a desire to implement a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and charting a pathway to the emissions reductions set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2019. This included a successful call for reform of the UK Government CfD mechanism to deliver focussed support for marine energy generation, an issue on which the Scottish Government has worked closely with the marine energy industry for a number of years.
Scotland’s transition to net zero is supported by the Scottish Energy Strategy, published in 2017, which sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for the future of the energy sector until 2050 and includes a target to meet the equivalent of 50% of Scotland’s heat, transport, and electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030. The Scottish Government will support the continued growth of the marine renewables sector with a strengthened framework of support, to be outlined in a refreshed Scottish Energy Strategy in 2022. The creation of the role of Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport in 2018, currently held by Michael Matheson MSP, has elevated issues regarding the renewable energy industries, climate crisis and net-zero policy to the cabinet level.
The Scottish Government has a strong track record of promoting the marine energy sector and supports RD&D activities designed to maintain Scotland’s position as a world leader in the marine sector. Since 2014, the Scottish Government has invested nearly £50m in the WES programme, resulting in the deployment of a prototype device from Mocean Energy and the planned deployment of AWS Ocean Energy in 2022, both at EMEC, and the launch in 2021 of the EuropeWave programme in partnership with the Basque Energy Agency. The Scottish Government’s Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund, supported the deployment of major tidal stream projects by Orbital Marine Power and Simec Atlantis Energy. The Scottish Marine Energy Industry Working Group provides a forum for the sector to speak with one voice about its priorities and the collective actions needed to maintain Scotland’s competitive advantage. As part of this, a number of industry-led subgroups are exploring key opportunities and barriers to the sector’s continued growth. 
At a national level, marine planning in Scotland’s inshore and offshore waters is governed by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010), establishing a legislative framework to ensure that increasing demands for the utilisation of the marine environment are managed responsibly and sustainably. Crown Estate Scotland is a public corporation that holds responsibility for the licensing of renewable energy generation in Scotland’s offshore waters. All revenue profit generated by Crown Estate Scotland is returned to the Scottish Government and capital is reinvested in the Scottish Crown Estate, with £11.5m returned in the 2020/21 financial year to aid in public spending and Scotland’s green economic recovery. In February 2021, Crown Estate Scotland published their first Climate Change Action Plan and directly acknowledged the significant potential value offered by focussed support and development of the wave and tidal sector.

Since its formation in 2018 the UK Maine Energy Council (MEC) has facilitated collaboration between, and represented the interests of, leading wave and tidal technology and project developers, supply chain companies, consultants and renewable industry associations in the UK. MEC has been instrumental in improving the policy landscape and outlook for the sector through coordinating engagement and communicating clearly to the UK Government, devolved administrations and other key stakeholders with a unified voice.  
In August 2021, MEC hosted the then Energy and Scottish Ministers at the European Marine Energy Centre to highlight how the sector was strongly positioned to support the UK Government’s aims:
  • To deliver a green economic recovery by supporting a sector with  a potential £1.4bn value to the UK economy by 2030
  • Level up communities across the home nations creating 4000 jobs by 2030
  • Support its Global Britain ambitions through accessing an export market estimated to be worth £76bn by 2050
The MEC also played a vital role in coordinating the ocean energy sector’s overall position as to why it would be suitable to be included in a ring-fenced funding pot in the UK Government’s newly restructured CfD scheme.
On the international front, to support collaboration and advance the sector’s interests, MEC signed a cooperation agreement with Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, in September 2021. The Franco-British collaboration will facilitate the sharing of analyses, best practice and formalises collaborative actions and synergies in realising the significant potential of renewable marine energies. 2022 will be a key year for the sector with the expected announcement of the CFD AR4 funding allocation in the summer, MEC will continue to advocate for increased R&D funding for wave technologies, work with the UK Government to establish a 2030 target for tidal stream and build support for Innovation Power Purchase Agreements.   


Contracts for Difference (CfDs)

The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme is the UK government’s flagship program for supporting the generation of low-carbon electricity. Based on top-up payments between a wholesale market reference price and a strike price, CfDs offer long-term price stabilisation and are awarded via competitive auctions. The CfD scheme incentivises investment in renewable energy by providing developers of renewable energy projects, normally projects with high upfront costs and long lifetimes, protection from volatile wholesale prices. To date, there have been three allocation rounds which have seen a number of different renewable energy technologies compete in auctions for a contract.  Ocean energy technologies are however yet to gain a CfD through the competitive auction process, primarily because they have been in the same CfD ‘pot’ as established, mature technologies such as offshore wind.
In November 2021, the UK Government announced its biggest investment in a generation into tidal power, when it was announced that the fourth allocation round (AR4) of the CfD scheme, due to open in December and totalling £285m, will contain a £20m ring-fenced fund solely for the use of tidal stream energy projects. This is in addition to £31m that tidal and wave developers can bid into as part of ‘pot 2’ in AR4 for emerging technologies. This provides the opportunity for the UK’s marine energy sector to continue developing its technology and lower its operating costs at a rate similar to the countries world-leading offshore wind industry. The delivery of this fund is evidence of the strong collaborative atmosphere across the sector, that has witnessed many of the leading industrial actors, academic partners and policymakers working together to make the case for the much-needed investment in the marine energy sector. 


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
In operation since April 2018, UKRI brings together seven research councils to support and coordinate research and innovation in the UK. Independently chaired, UKRI has a £8bn budget funded primarily through the Science Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The research councils and bodies operating within UKRI are Innovate UK, Research England, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, National Environment Research Council, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK, part of the UKRI. It was announced in 2021 that EPSRC will support 8 new wave energy converter research projects with a £7.5m investment:

  • Bionic Adaptive Stretchable Materials for Wave Energy Converters – University of Strathclyde. EPSRC grant: £975,000
  • Flexible responsive systems in wave energy - University of Plymouth. EPSRC grant: £984,000
  • Holistic Advanced Prototyping and Interfacing for Wave Energy Control – University of Strathclyde. EPSRC grant: £987,000
  • Mooring analysis and design for offshore WEC survivability and fatigue – University of Manchester. EPSRC grant: £997,000
  • MU-EDRIVE – Newcastle University. EPSRC grant: £776,000
  • Wave-Suite – University of London. EPSRC grant: £987,000
  • Novel high-performance wave energy converters with advanced control, reliability and survivability systems through machine-learning forecasting – Lancaster University. EPSRC grant: £798,000
  • System-level co-design and control of large capacity wave energy converters with multiple PTOs – Queen Mary University of London. EPSRC grant: £986,000.

Innovate UK
A member of UKRI, Innovate UK is a funding body that supports businesses in their development of new technologies and concepts, helping them to reach commercial success. Innovate UK awards grant and loan funding across all sectors to business-led and high-value innovation in the UK. The organisation also cultivates networks between innovators and investors, researchers, industry, policymakers, and future customers on a domestic and international scale.
Wave Energy Scotland
Wave Energy Scotland (WES) has continued to use Scottish Government funding to develop solutions to the technical challenges facing the wave energy sector. The WES programmes aim to drive innovative technology projects towards commercialisation through a competitive stage-gate process. The stages of R&D activities guide projects from concept to prototype testing. Within the WES programme separate funding streams exist for the development of novel wave energy devices, power take-off systems, control systems, quick connection systems and materials. 2021 saw the successful deployment of Mocean Energy’s half-scale Blue X wave energy converter at EMEC, and the completed construction of AWS Ocean Energy’s WaveSwing device (ready for 2022 sea trials at EMEC), both of which received funding from WES. WES has to date awarded £48M through 107 contracts, including 250 organisations from 13 countries.

Consenting processes

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) policy exists in UK but it is used as a decision making tool currently only in the East of England Inshore and Offshore areas.

An interactive tool – the Marine Information System - explains how marine plans apply to different marine sectors and geographic areas. It highlights policies that apply to a chosen area to inform plan users (available at:

Eleven marine plan areas will have a marine plan with a long-term (20 years) view of activities and will be reviewed every 3 years. There will be ten marine plans as the North West will have a single plan following requests to have a single process and one plan for these areas. All marine plan areas are scheduled to have a plan by 2021.

The Crown Estate carries out periodic tendering processes for wave/tidal areas. These areas are scoped and Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) carried out.

The authorities involved in the consenting process are:

• Marine Management Organization (MMO);
• National Resources Wales (NRW).

In English and Welsh offshore waters, marine licenses, section 36/A consents, and safety zones are determined by the MMO. In Welsh inshore waters, marine licenses are determined by the NRW and section 36/A consents and safety zones by the MMO. Decommissioning of offshore renewable energy installations is regulated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Main sequential steps (licenses, consents, permits) required to get permission for project deployment is presented in the following link:

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Assessment is based on the size, nature, and location of each proposal as directed by Annex II of the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 or Schedule II of the Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000.

The Marine Management Organization (MMO) is responsible for providing a decision on whether an EIA is required or the applicant can voluntarily opt in to the process.

The Environmental Statement (ES) will be submitted at the application stage for a marine license. However, draft ES chapters may be reviewed by the MMO and its technical advisors at the pre-application stage.

Legislation and regulations related solely with the consenting process for ocean energy:

• The Electricity (Offshore Generating Stations) (Applications for Consent) Regulations 2006;
• The Electricity (Offshore Generating Stations) (Safety Zones) (Application Procedures and Control of Access) Regulations 2007;
• The Electricity Act 1989 (Requirement for Consent for Offshore Wind and Water Driven Generating Stations) Order 2011.

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

• Electricity Act 1989 for section 36 consents and safety zones.

Consultation process is initiated after the initial checking of the application.

This is done primarily through the online portal Marine Case Management System (MCMS) but also by email to other consultees as appropriate.

There are statutory consultees stipulated in either the Marine and Coastal Act 2009, the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 or Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000. Consultation in taken on a case-by-case basis.

There are no informal consultation activities implemented during the licensing process.

The MMO have a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) target of 13 weeks to make a determination on a marine license application from when it is received with us. There is no such KPI for 36 consents or safety zones.
Information about what permits are required, in what order and what information must be supplied at what time is available at a dedicated web link.

Usually deployment in designated test centers are already pre-consented so developers do not have to submit a full application comprising all the typical consents providing certain initial conditions are met. This is the approach encouraged for applicants to adopt in order to streamline the consenting process for the deployment of demonstration devices.

The OES is organised under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but is functionally and legally autonomous. Views, findings and publications of the OES do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or its individual member countries.