Annual Report 2015

Task 8 - Consenting Processes for Ocean Energy

It is widely accepted that the ocean has the potential to become an important source of clean energy that could help drive innovation and job creation in coastal areas. Although several devices have been deployed at sea, the consenting process is still regarded as a critical barrier for industry and to future progress of the sector.

The time involved in obtaining consents is of great concern to most developers as it has definite resource and economic implications for project planning.

Ocean energy projects are relatively new to many regulatory bodies and are often considered under legislation developed for other sectors (e.g. oil & gas or aquaculture) which may not be ideally suited to a new technology such as ocean energy. As a way to expedite the consenting process, some countries have attempted to “streamline” their procedures so as to improve their operation.

In the EU, Maritime Spatial Planning and Strategic Environmental Assessment have been identified as tools which can support and inform future consenting of ocean energy projects. Other countries are in the process of developing MSP systems and some have already zoned sea areas for marine renewable energy development.
The operation of consenting systems will always be influenced to a large extent by national governance structures, given ultimate authority rests primarily with them. 

October 2014 – March 2015

Ana Brito Melo, WavEC Offshore Renewables, Portugal

All member countries

Anne Marie O’Hagan, MaREI Centre at University College Cork, Ireland



Likewise dedicated policies, strategies and incentives for renewable energy introduced by respective governments can have a significant impact on progressing industry development.
The proposed task aims to: 

  1. Analyse the operation of consenting processes in OES member countries through a collection of information on legal, policy and administrative issues.
  2. Composition of a coherent overview, highlighting information gaps and areas which may require further attention and presentation of results.
  3. To inform regulators and decision-makers on the key needs of the ocean energy sector from consenting processes.


The report “Consenting Processes for Ocean Energy on OES Member Countries” published in February 2015 summarises several aspects of the consenting process for ocean energy in the OES member countries, based on a collection of information provided by the Delegates. It is clear from that report that the realisation of ocean energy projects in all the OES member countries continue to face challenges in relation to consenting processes. This can be detrimental to the sector and may also lead to delays in realising operational projects with consequences for budgeting and real costs to developers.

A governance framework that enables the development of the ocean energy sector is still required in most OES member countries. Consenting processes are one element of this framework. These must be considered within much wider management frameworks that are now beginning to include Marine Spatial Planning and risk-based approaches as well as continued environmental protection and increasing need to ensure public acceptance. Whilst uncertainties with respect to environmental effects of ocean energy devices continue to be addressed through research programmes and collaborative efforts, there is a need to ensure that the knowledge generated from this work informs policy development and the future consenting processes to be applied to new and larger ocean energy developments. An annual update of this report will be conducted in 2016, including a review of the following topics in each OES country

  • Integrated planning: to include information on the status of marine spatial planning in each member country, how site selection is conducted, how the needs of other marine sectors are taken into account etc.
  • Administrative procedures: to include information about institutional systems specifically whether central coordination units or one-stop shops exist, if there are initiatives for simplified licensing systems and whether there are any on-going initiatives aimed at streamlining applicable processes;
  • Environmental Impact Assessment: to include summary information on the environmental impacts that are most frequently encountered by developers and regulators, how projects are monitored post construction and how the resulting information is fed back into policy-making.
  • Public participation in decision-making: to include an overview of how the public and other marine sectors are involved in decisions relating to ocean energy projects.
  • Other relevant information: to include succinct information on any other national initiatives or programmes that are relevant to consenting and permitting in the OES country.