Energy from the sea: Italy ranks first in the Mediterranean area for technologies and public investments


With about 5 million euro per year of public investments in marine energy technologies, Italy ranks first among the Mediterranean countries and second in Europe, just after the UK,  as shown by the first report of the European project OceanSET 2020, which analyzed investments and technological development of 11 European countries [1]. The data concerning Italy was collected and processed by ENEA, which is the national representative at the SET-Plan Ocean Energy, the group in charge of implementing the European Strategic Plan for the development of marine energy technologies.

ENEA is also actively involved in the field of marine energy technology, developing both prototypes for the energy exploitation of waves (PEWEC plant) and climatological models and high resolution forecasts of wave motion (Waves) and tides ( MITO).

"The marine energy sector in Italy is entering an operational, pre-commercial phase, thanks to ongoing testing of prototypes developed by research bodies such as ENEA, CNR and RSE, universities and large national energy companies", Gianmaria Sannino, head of the ENEA Laboratory of Climate Modeling and Impacts, explained.

“Now this position needs to be consolidated through medium-term planning of public funding for research and incentives for the development of this sector of renewables. And, in this regard, we are awaiting the new FER2 decree which could give further significant momentum to our sector ", Sannino continued.

In Europe, the availability of marine energy resources is greater along the Atlantic coast (particularly in Ireland and Scotland), but also the Mediterranean Sea offers interesting opportunities for both energy production and technological development.

The western coasts of Sardinia and Corsica offer the highest potential of wave energy generation, as well as the Sicilian Channel and the coasts of Algeria and Tunisia, where the average flow of energy ranges between 10 and 13 kW / m.,  while tidal energy can be exploited mainly in the Strait of Messina, where energy production could reach 125 GW / h per year – an amount sufficient to meet the energy needs of cities such as Messina itself - thanks to the exploitation of currents reaching speeds of over 2 meters per second.

Italy is at the forefront of research in the Mediterranean basin for testing and developing devices for tidal energy conversion and it has achieved an important position at an international level.

In fact, Italian scientific and industrial expertise, combined with the favorable climatic conditions of our sea, have so far allowed to conduct less risky and cheaper tests on hi-tech devices and design increasingly efficient innovative systems for energy exploitation. According to the report "Ocean SET 2020", the public allocations of the 11 European countries examined in the report amount to 26.3 million euro, but only 6 countries have adopted specific policies for the exploitation of wave and tidal power for energy purposes (in addition to Italy, France, Ireland, Portugal, United Kingdom and Spain).

Among the short and medium term objectives, the European Union has the reduction in the cost of kWh of energy from tides (from € 0.15 / kWh in 2025 to € 0.10 / kWh in 2030) and waves (from € 0.20 / kWh in 2025 to € 0.10 / kWh in 2035) and 79 research projects were funded, of which 57 for energy from waves and 22 from tides: in Italy the most promising prototypes are 5, of which 4 for waves and 1 for tides. But among all these initiatives, twelve European projects (7 for energy from waves and 4 from tides) are the most promising, which have reached a very advanced level of technological development, with the creation of 200 new jobs.

There’s a significant difference between the two groups: tidal stream exctraction mainly uses horizontal axis turbines, while there are many wave energy technologies being investigated, ranging from floating power plants to oscillating water columns; but they have all been tested- considering their high level of maturity (TRL 7) -   in real operating environments. In Italy there are test sites located in Pantelleria, Reggio Calabria, Naples and the Adriatic.

Launched in 2019, the project EU OceanSET- which includes ENEA as a partner - aims

at taking stock of the technologies and funding mechanisms active in European States to promote shared knowledge on this new source of clean energy, in which  Europe could take the leading position at global level, with a potential turnover of over 50 billion euro per year and the creation of 400 thousand new jobs by 2050.

In recent years ENEA's commitment to projects dedicated to sea energy has been substantial, with participation in projects funded- among others- by the European Regional Development Fund (PELAGOS).

In November 2019 the Interreg-MED BLUE DEAL project was launched, with the objective of overcoming current technical and administrative limitations to the diffusion of Blue Energy and define adequate requirements and procedures to support decisions in compliance with regulatory, environmental and social constraints. BLUE DEAL aims at identifying THE best practices to plan, test and integrate procedures for the use of Blue Energy in the Mediterranean regions and formulate a common plan for the diffusion of these technologies in the Mediterranean area. In approximately three years, local and transnational laboratories will be organized in different locations along the Mediterranean coasts to involve stakeholders, conduct and verify participatory planning processes and establish alliances between the public and private sectors.


For more information please contact:

Gianmaria Sannino, ENEA - Climate Modelling and Impacts Laboratory,


[1] Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden

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