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Unpublished Paper
Finding the adequate legal framework for the deployment of Ocean Renewable Energy through area-based management
ExpressO (2015)
  • Xiao Recio-Blanco, Duke University

The world runs on electricity, but its global distribution is uneven and incomplete. The lack of access to electricity denies some people the most basic benefits, from healthcare and sanitation to security and economic development.

To increase access to electricity, most developing nations have relied on traditional sources of energy, namely fossil fuels, and the extension of a central electrical grid. Scholars and specialized International Organizations suggest that the implementation of renewable energy technologies through small-to-mid scale grid projects could be a reliable alternative. However, renewable energy technologies must overcome three formidable hurdles: low reliability, uneven availability, and the high costs of deployment. Ocean Renewable Energy (ORE) technologies, namely offshore wind, wave, tidal, and current energy, may help to solve some of these problems. First, ORE sources are available in any sea or river and coastal regions are those areas of the world experiencing the highest population growth rates. Second, the combination of ORE technologies – e.g. offshore wind and tidal energy, constitutes a highly reliable source of energy, capable of competing with nuclear energy as a baseload source.

All ORE technologies confront significant regulatory barriers. Since ORE developments constitute an unprecedented use of the seas, most nations lack specific regulatory measures, have inconsistent regulatory approaches, or find their legal frameworks unprepared for the development of ORE technologies. All of these difficulties lead to excessive delays, reduced economic feasibility, and a dilution of public support and private investment. In other words, a fraction of the high costs of most ORE technologies is attributable to inadequate regulations.

This article is the first to analyze these regulatory problems and focuses exclusively on space allocation by assessing the legal instruments used to allocate space and the outcome achieved. This article summarizes the basic principles and current developments of the three major ORE technologies, and explains potential regulatory advantages of ORE development. It describes the “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches to regulation for ORE technology, analyzing the regulatory frameworks of three countries that have used area-based management mechanisms for ORE deployment. It also looks at the specific case of regulating ORE technology research. It also assesses what the future holds for ORE regulation, and suggests that coastal nations interested in developing their marine energy potential could learn from experiences that use a spatial approach to the management of large-scale renewable energy projects, such as the Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) that have been created in the American Southwest.

  • marine spatial planning,
  • MSP,
  • ocean zoning,
  • area-based management,
  • Ocean Renewable Energy,
  • comparative,
  • international law,
  • renewable energy,
  • space allocation,
  • offshore wind,
  • tidal energy,
  • wave energy,
  • adaptive management,
  • legal certainty
Publication Date
August 5, 2015
Citation Information
Xiao Recio-Blanco. "Finding the adequate legal framework for the deployment of Ocean Renewable Energy through area-based management" ExpressO (2015)
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