This Issue Brief sets out some key legal challenges for the development of ocean energy technologies, structured around the following core themes of marine governance: (i) international law; (ii) rights and ownership; (iii) consenting processes; (iv) environmental impacts and liability; and (v) management of marine space and resources.


  • Ocean energy is bringing unique challenges to marine governance frameworks, with legal and regulatory issues frequently cited as a major non-technical barrier to development.
  • By requiring exclusive occupation of ocean space, ocean energy is effectively privatising a common good and creating potential for conflict with other rights-holders and existing marine users.
  • Uncertainties regarding the environmental interactions of ocean energy devices must be better accommodated in regulatory processes, based on adaptive and risk-based management strategies.
  • Marine Spatial Planning has rapidly developed as a tool for managing ocean spaces, though it is not yet clear how ocean energy, and other new marine industries, can be integrated into these processes.
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