Ten years of marine energy standardization

IEC work helps lay the foundations of an emerging Renewable Energy sector

Today, a number of different technologies are being developed to extract energy from oceans, such as tidal, river and ocean current and wave power. Though only a few large-scale systems currently operate, several are being demonstrated in Asia, Europe and North America.

Tidal stream technology
A number of tidal stream technologies are being trialled in different countries (Photo: Siemens, UK)

Slowly but surely

While marine energy has a great and often predictable source of power, important engineering challenges have restricted the scale of projects. These include operating in difficult conditions, and the effect the technology has on marine life and other marine users, such as the shipping and fishing industries. According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), global ocean energy capacity in 2014 was 0,53 GW.

IEC leads the way

The growth of Renewable Energy (RE) globally, including the emerging marine RE sector, is dependent on the development of International Standards and the verification of compliance to these.  Third-party verification to consensus-based standards reduces marine energy equipment and project risk, improves their safety, performance and reliability, which increases confidence in the marketplace.

Against this backdrop, IEC Technical Committee (TC) 114: Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters, was established in 2007 to prepare International Standards for marine energy conversion systems.

Jonathan Colby is the third Chair of IEC TC 114. His involvement with IEC began in 2008 as a Subject Matter Expert developing Technical Specification IEC TS 62600-200 on electricity-producing tidal energy converters. Colby served as the US Technical Advisor to the US Technical Advisory Group prior to his appointment as Chair.

“Our work is crucial to developing the marine energy industry. If an industry can collectively establish technical standards and certification processes via global consensus, not only can international markets evaluate technology viability fairly, they can do it more efficiently and ultimately, it will lead to the confident adoption of Marine Energy technologies worldwide”, said Colby.


Comprised of 15 participating countries and 11 observers, IEC TC 114 has seven active project teams, which are developing new Technical Specifications (TSs), two maintenance teams and six ad hoc groups, which are working on strategies for the next steps of the eight existing TSs.

The ultimate goal is for these publications to become International Standards, which will address:

  • system definitions
  • management plan for technology and project development
  • performance measurements of wave, tidal and water current energy converters
  • resource assessment requirements, comprising:
  •    design and safety including reliability and survivability
  •    deployment, operation, maintenance and retrieval
  •    commissioning and decommissioning
  •    electrical interface, including array integration and / or grid integration
  •    testing: laboratory, manufacturing and factory acceptance
  •    measurement methodologies of physical parameters of the device

The work is varied and involves liaising with other IEC TCs, which cover: hydraulic turbines (IEC TC 4), systems aspects for electrical energy supply (IEC TC 8/SC 8A), wind energy generation systems (IEC TC 88), and international organizations, such as the IEA and its Ocean Energy Systems and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Given that the industry as a whole continues to grow, a Task Force has been established to review the strategic business plan to take into consideration global market developments and needs.

Part of a global RE scheme for quality assurance

In 2014, IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications, was created in recognition that the ever-increasing demand for electricity, and the need to reduce the share of fossil fuels in power generation, have led to rapid development and growth of the RE sector, and to address the specific requirements of the RE sector, which are not covered by the existing IEC Conformity Assessment Systems.

IECRE aims to facilitate international trade in equipment and services for use in RE in the marine, solar PV and wind energy sectors, while maintaining the required level of safety. Each of these sectors will be able to operate IECRE Schemes that cover products, services and personnel, to provide testing, inspection and certification.

Jonathan Colby has dedicated much time to setting up the marine sector of IECRE in his role as Chair of the Marine Energy Operational Management Committee (ME-OMC). Equally, the publications of IEC TC 114 will be used in the System as the benchmarks against which to assess marine energy systems. Work has begun to promote IECRE at international events, such as IRENA Innovation Week 2016, and Hydrovision International 2017

“The ME-OMC has made significant progress outlining the rules and operating procedures for issuing Test Reports and Conformity Statements, the underlying components of deliverables such as Prototype and Type Certificates, among others.  Focus will shift to the essential work of peer assessing Renewable Energy Test Labs (RETLs) and Renewable Energy Certification Bodies (RECBs), both with a scope in Marine Energy, following Member Body approval of the critical Rules and Operational Documents (ODs). Simultaneously, close collaboration with IEC TC 114 enables important feedback between the Standards writers and the certification community, essential for the success of TC 114, the ME-OMC and the Marine Energy Sector at large”, Colby concludes.