United Kingdom

Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) retains overall responsibility for energy policy in the UK while powers related to planning, fisheries and the promotion of energy efficiency are devolved to the governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
While preparing to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021, the UK has set out new plans to establish itself as the world leader in clean wind energy by creating jobs, slashing carbon emissions, and boosting exports. To accelerate the progress towards the UK’s net zero emissions by 2050, the government has announced “The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial revolution” in November 2020, which plans to mobilise £12 billion of government investment and three times as much of private investment to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs. As a part of the Green Industrial revolution, the government also mentioned that the fourth round of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme of 2021 will be open to bids from the tidal sector. This is expected to not only double the capacity of renewable energy but also extend the investment and policy support provided to multiple technologies. Absence of a capacity specifically ringfenced for marine energy, makes it difficult for the sector to compete with the more advanced technologies. But the government has committed to look into the role of wave and tidal in the “Energy White Paper” published in December 2020.
In June 2020, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK’s independent climate advisory body published a series of very important publications. This includes the 2020 Progress Report to the UK Parliament, the 2020 Progress Report to the Scottish Parliament and the Sixth Carbon Budget report. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the report to the UK Parliament, “Reducing UK emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament”, sets out series of recommendations to the UK Government on securing a green and resilient recovery. Assessing the progress made by the UK since 2008, it prioritises the need for climate policy and investments to be made in the coming year to achieve the net zero ambitions across the whole UK economy.
Scotland’s climate change legislation includes a commitment to reduce Scotland’s emissions by 75% by 2030 (compared with 1990) and to net zero by 2045. An update to Scotland's Climate Change Plan, published in December 2020, charts a pathway to emissions reduction targets out to 2032 and outlines the Scottish Government’s approach to delivering a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Scottish Energy Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for the future of the energy sector to 2050 and maps out a transition which is consistent with the ambitions in Scotland’s climate change legislation.  The Energy Strategy is defined by a whole-system approach 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 continues to champion the ocean energy sector, supporting the research, development, innovation, and demonstration intended to maintain Scotland’s position as a world leader in both wave and tidal energy. Since 2014 the Scottish Government has invested nearly £50 million in its internationally recognised Wave Energy Scotland programme which will see the deployment of two prototype wave energy convertors in real-sea conditions in Scotland in 2021. In 2019-20 the Scottish Government awarded around £5 million from the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to two innovative tidal energy projects which will be deployed in Scottish waters. The Scottish Government also continues to support a working group which enables industry, academia, and the public sector to work together towards the further development of Scotland’s marine energy sector.
Marine Scotland, the Directorate of the Scottish Government responsible for the management of Scottish seas, including planning and licencing of marine energy projects, published “The 2020 Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy”. This document sets out the most sustainable plan options for the future development of commercial offshore wind energy in Scotland. The draft Plan Options provide the spatial footprint for the ScotWind Leasing round, managed by Crown Estate Scotland.
Crown Estate Scotland (CES) is a public corporation which, as part of its duties, manages Scottish seabed leasing for renewable energy projects out to 200 nautical miles (nm). It delivered £12m for Scotland’s communities in the 2019/20 financial year, which will be returned to The Scottish Government for public spending and to aid Scotland’s green economic recovery. Crown Estate Scotland currently operates an open leasing application process for wave and tidal developers, for non-competitive sites up to a maximum of 30 MWs.  Additionally, in 2020 the Crown Estate launched the first cycle of ScotWind leasing, which will potentially award up to 8,600km2 of the seabed for bids from offshore wind developers.
The Welsh Government is committed to unlocking the renewable energy potential from Welsh waters by supporting the delivery of marine energy projects. The Welsh Government has a 70% renewable electricity mix contribution target by 2030, a proportion of which should come from marine sources. For this, the Welsh Government has allocated £100.4m of European Union (EU) structural funding over the next 5 years for marine energy through the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO). The fund is aimed at establishing Wales as a centre for marine energy production by increasing the number of wave and tidal energy devices being tested including multi-device array deployments.
Marine Energy Wales (MEW) is the industry led stakeholder group representing the wave, tidal (stream and range) 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 emerging offshore energy generation. Their vision is to create a thriving and diverse emerging offshore renewables industry in Wales that brings with it the combined benefits of climate change mitigation, reliable contributions to the national energy mix, jobs, and economic development in coastal, peripheral zones along with large-scale future export potential.
Over £123.7 million has been spent to date in Wales on the development of the marine energy industry. This figure is increasing annually with rising interest to invest in Wales and a strong policy drive to support the sector. The MEW 2020 State of the Sector Report details that a total of 16 developers are actively progressing projects in Wales with seabed agreements in place for over 532 MW of sites. Through the Morlais energy project in North Wales, the Marine Energy Test Area in Milford Haven and TIGER’s Ramsey Sound site along with the ORE Catapult Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence, Wales has an excellent world-class suite of Test and Innovation Sites. These will continue to attract not only the interests of UK based technology developers, but also further the inward investment successes already achieved from countries including Sweden, Canada, France, and Spain.
The 2020 developments recently announced through this organisation include:
  • The Welsh Government, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), will provide funding of £1.2 million to Nova Innovation towards its ground-breaking Enlli tidal energy project. The project will potentially transition “The Island in the Currents” to be the world’s first blue energy island.
  • Swansea-based Marine Power Systems (MPS) has secured a crowd funding support of over £2m in August 2020 apart from the £12.8m of EU funding awarded last year to support the next stage of project phase. With this, MPS is now set to build their first commercial wave demonstrator device in Wales.

In June 2020, Pembrokeshire received the green light for a £60m funding for a marine energy project. The Swansea Bay City Deal project as part of the North Wales Growth Deal, will seek to deliver; The Marine Energy Test Area led by Marine Energy Wales and supported on the ground by EMEC from April 2020, a 90 square kilometre Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone led by Wave Hub, modernised port facilities by the Port of Milford Haven and the Marine Energy and Engineering Centre of Excellence (MEECE) by ORE Catapult. 

Marine Energy Council
The UK Marine Energy Council (MEC) was formed in 2018 by a collaboration of the leading wave and tidal developers, to engage with the Government and other stakeholders as a unified sector.  Apart from technology and project developers, MEC members include supply chain companies, consultants, as well as leading industry associations, e.g., Renewable UK, Scottish Renewables, Marine Energy Wales, and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC). The objectives of the MEC, which was formally incorporated in 2020, are to:
  • progress from the OREC cost reduction advisory group, encouraging collaboration across the sector and supporting the policy positions for delivery of marine renewables; and
  • lead the development of the sector both in the UK and internationally, as well as delivering a work programme to support the growth of the wave and tidal sector through the development of a UK market. 
On September 2020, the MEC presented a detailed response to the UK Secretary of State for BEIS stating how the wave and tidal stream sector could generate a net cumulative benefit of £4.0bn by 2040 and £1.4bn by 2030, respectively. Moreover, strategic support for the wave and tidal sector would result in achieving three key objectives: a boost to UK manufacturing and jobs; practical application of the ‘Green Transition’ as a route to post-pandemic recovery; and a major export opportunity in technologies where the UK currently leads the world. Urging the need for strong support, the MEC put forward three measures that would be influential in realising these opportunities: Contract for Difference (CfD) reforms, a strategic vision and support to technology developers through the Innovation Power Purchase Agreement (IPPA).


Contracts for Difference (CfDs)

The UK Government continues to offer revenue support to a variety of renewable energy technologies through the Contract for Difference (CfD) programme. Based on top-up payments to a strike price, CfDs offer long-term price stabilisation and are awarded via competitive auctions. 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.
Last year during the third round of auctions in May 2019, twelve projects, of which six offshore wind, four remote islands wind and two-advanced conversion technology projects secured the contracts. For the upcoming fourth round of CFD auction in 2021, BEIS has decided to allocate support for up to 12 GW of new renewables projects. Through this, the government aims to double the capacity of renewable projects deployed and provide support to the less ‘established technologies’ including floating offshore wind, Advanced Conversion Technologies and tidal stream. Also, separation of wind technologies into a separate category (Pot II) will enable ocean energy technologies to compete more fairly if further CfD reform is undertaken.
Seeking views from stakeholders and interested parties on proposed changes to the scheme, the government published its “Contracts for Difference (CfD): proposed amendments to the scheme” consultation document. Building on the consultation and the significant number of responses, a further ‘Call for Evidence’ was issued that sought views on the scope for deploying other innovative marine energy technologies such as floating offshore wind, wave energy and tidal stream energy.


In the last few years, the UK Government has made available some public funding alternatives to support the development of the ocean energy sector. Some of these programmes and initiatives are described in this section.
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 £6 billion budget funded primarily through the Science Budget by BEIS. The research councils and bodies operating within UKRI are the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), National Environment Research Council (NERC), Research England, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). In May 2020, NERC and ESRC together announced research applications to address the objectives of the new Sustainable Management of UK Marine Resources (SMMR) research programme. Worth £12.4m, the programme is run in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Marine Scotland. In June 2020, the EPSRC announced another call to fund research proposals in Marine Wave Energy with an approximate funding of £4.5 available to support 4-5 grant proposals. The two calls closed in October and September 2020, respectively.
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 (WES)
WES continues to use Scottish Government funding to support an innovative and unique approach to the development of wave technology. The WES programmes 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. Funding calls have targeted development of wave energy devices, power take-off systems, control systems, quick connection systems and materials. Subsystem hardware from the programme has been demonstrated in Scottish waters during 2020, and preparations are being made for the deployment of two half-scale wave energy converters around Orkney, in Northern Scotland, in early 2021.

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.