The European Commission has presented a new action plan to facilitate the further development of renewable energy from the continent’s seas and oceans.

The action plan will include the formation of an Ocean Energy Forum, bringing together stakeholders, to foster cooperation to support the ocean energy sector, which is estimated to be worth up to €535bn globally by 2050.

Blue energy/ocean energy, which includes all technologies to harvest the renewable energy of seas and oceans other than offshore wind, could be harvested in many forms including wave energy, tidal stream energy, tidal range technologies, ocean thermal energy conversion and salinity gradient power.

The action plan will help push the ‘blue energy’ sector towards full industrialisation, and exploitation of such energy will contribute to the decarbonisation of the EU’s economy and provide secure and reliable renewable energy to Europe.

"The action plan will include the formation of an Ocean Energy Forum to foster cooperation to support the ocean energy sector."

However, the sector is facing several challenges, which need to be addressed to reap economic and environmental benefits and become cost-competitive with other forms of electricity generation.

The challenges include high technology costs and difficulties in securing finance; and substantial infrastructure barriers including grid connection issues or access to adequate port facilities and specialised vessels.

The emerging sector is also facing administrative barriers such as complex licensing and consenting procedures, which can delay projects and raise costs; and environmental issues including the need for more research and better information on environmental impacts.

The Commission’s new plan will bring together existing knowledge and expertise, create synergies, provide creative solutions and develop the sector, in addition to helping develop a strategic roadmap for the sector, which could be the basis for a European industrial initiative at a later stage.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said its Blue Growth strategy highlighted that seas and oceans have the potential to generate significant economic growth and much-needed jobs.

"By helping the ocean energy sector to fully develop we can fulfill this potential through innovation while also securing clean, renewable energy for Europe," said Damanaki.