POEM: starting point for offshore wind energy in Spain

  • Market Insight 10 March 2023 10 March 2023
  • UK & Europe

  • Energy & Natural Resources

On 28 February 2023, the Council of Ministers approved Royal Decree 150/2023, approving the Marine Spatial Plans (the so-called POEM). This is an important milestone for the long-expected development of wind offshore farms in Spain, within the lines set by the Offshore Wind Roadmap and the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy to meet the energy targets for 2030 and 2050.

The delay in the implementation of offshore wind in Spain is due to, among other factors, the characteristics of the Spanish territory and seabed. The continental shelf descends rapidly and soon reaches depths that are too deep, which has hindered the technical and economic feasibility of exploiting the offshore wind resource. However, the significant technological and industrial progress experienced by the offshore wind sector in recent years has made it possible to implement it in Spain, through the development of solutions and concepts associated with floating offshore wind that allow it to be deployed in deep waters.

In this context, the Roadmap for the development of offshore wind and marine energies in Spain, approved by the Council of Ministers on 10 December 2021, established a fundamental step for the development of offshore wind in Spain: "the definition and approval in the POEMs of the zoning for the development of offshore wind farms". The POEM are, therefore, the first step in the Roadmap for the development of offshore wind and energy in Spain, which should be followed in the coming months by a regulatory  development for the procedure for granting rights of use, access and connection to the electricity system, and the promotion of investment.

Legislative development

The genesis of the POEM can be found in Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014, in the framework of the European Union's Integrated Maritime Policy initiative to promote blue growth through maritime planning.

This Directive was transposed into Spanish law through the Royal Decree 363/2017, of 8 April, which establishes a framework for Maritime Spatial Planning, including the obligation for Spain to draw up five Maritime Spatial Plans, one For each of its five maritime zones. These five maritime zones, or districts, established in Law 41/2010 are the North Atlantic, Levantine-Balearic, Strait and Alboran, South Atlantic and Canary Islands demarcations.

The POEMs , therefore, define the spatial and temporal planning where the different uses and activities can be carried out in Spanish waters. The POEMs divide maritime uses and activities into two main groups: uses of general interest and economic maritime uses, giving priority to the protection and conservation of the marine environment, including protected marine areas and the coastal environment.

The EU's Blue Economy strategies and energy objectives have played an important role in the process of drawing up the POEMs. Spain is one of the main contributors to the EU's blue economy in terms of employment and added value. The incorporation of Spanish waters, with more than one million square kilometres of water and eight thousand kilometres of coastline, into the renewable energy generation system will be a very important step towards the energy objectives set by Spain and the EU and for Spain's role in this industry.

The National Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) 2021-2030 foresees a capacity of 50 GW of installed wind power in 2030 taking into account both onshore and offshore wind, a substantial increase from the 26 GW installed today. The target set in the Roadmap for floating offshore wind and other offshore energy in 2030 is between 1 GW to 3 GW for offshore wind and between 40 MW and 60 MW for other offshore energy, which may vary depending on the state of the art of floating wind and its technical development.

The process of drafting the POEMs has been long and complex given the variety of sectors and interests involved. Along with the different public administrations, the most representative sectoral organisations (fisheries, tourism, energy, industry, etc.), interested groups and entities and economic agents have participated in the process, providing their contributions during a long period of public consultation that began in 2021.

Guiding principles and cross-cutting nature of the objectives of the programmes

The POEM establish a set of guiding principles that will guide the process of developing spatial planning, in conjunction with the planning criteria in the marine environment, referred to in Article 4 of Law 41/2010, of 29 December, and other guiding principles and objectives already present in the sectoral regulations and in the Spanish maritime space.

In summary, we can say that the essential objective of the POEM is to promote sustainable activity and growth in the maritime sectors in a way that is compatible with respect for the values of marine areas and the sustainable use of resources. As we can see, these principles are twofold:

  • Ensuring the exploitation of the different maritime areas and the participation of the different actors involved, both public and private. 
  • Ensure the compatibility of the maintenance. 
  • Improvement of the environmental status of the marine environment, its conservation and protection.

The economic sectors covered by the POEM include aquaculture, extractive fisheries, the hydrocarbon and renewable energy sector, the electricity transport sector, shipping, port activity and tourism and leisure activities.

Structure of the POEMs and ZUP and ZAP ordering scheme

The plans are structured in five blocks:

  • Block I - sets out the context and scope of the plans
  • Block II - establishes the guiding principles and management objectives
  • Block III - make a diagnosis of the spatial distribution of uses, activities and interests in Spanish waters, as well as land-sea interactions; this diagnosis is independent of the rest of the blocks and is set out in five independent documents, one for each of the five marine districts. 
  • Block IV - establishes maritime spatial planning by developing the different zones. 
  • Block V - develops the implementation, evaluation and monitoring of the plans. 

For the protection of the interests and the achievement of the objectives mentioned above, the EMOP has divided the following zones:

Priority Use Zones (PUZs) are specific areas where activities of general interest are currently taking place. These zones are divided into the following sections:

  • Biodiversity protection
  • Environmentally assessed coastal protection aggregate sites
  • Protection of underwater cultural heritage
  • R&D&I
  • National defence
  • Safety in navigation

The PUZs guarantee a correct use in an area and for this purpose, a series of measures are adopted to guarantee a certain priority use. In the event that one or more priority zones overlap, preference criteria are established and remedial measures are proposed.

High Potential Areas (HPAs) refer to the identification of areas where the realisation of certain sectoral or general interest activities is foreseeable in the future:

  • Biodiversity conservation 
  • Aggregate deposits that could be used for coastal protection
  • R&D&I
  • Port activity
  • Offshore wind energy development 
  • Aquaculture

Areas of high potential for offshore wind energy development

The POEMs pay special attention to offshore wind and offshore energy as a maritime use or activity whose future development is foreseeable, so areas are identified in which this industry can be deployed. The POEMs set the accessible area for offshore wind power at 5,000 square kilometres, 0.46% of the total Spanish territorial waters, which will be reviewed by 31 December 2027 at the latest.

High Potential Renewable Energy Zones (HPREZs) have been defined as areas that meet the following requirements:

  1. Reach values of over 7.5m/s wind speed, at 100m height for the four peninsular marine demarcations, and at 140m height in the Canary DM. 
  2. The depth does not exceed 1000m.
  3. If possible, they should be located close to an onshore area with adequate electrical infrastructure for the evacuation of the energy generated. 
  4. They have been identified as such in these plans. 
  5. It must also comply with the criteria of not being located in areas identified as incompatible, or as "prohibition of installing wind power (whether pivoted or floating)" according to the criteria proposed by the General Directorate of Biodiversity, Forests and Desertification of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge. 

The HPREZs are identified in Block III, where a detailed study of the environmental and economic conditions in each of the five marine demarcations is carried out. Likewise, within these marine demarcations, the areas and conditions of wind turbines and interactions with other sectors.

North Atlantic Marine Demarcation: the POEM authorises 2,688.61 square kilometres in this demarcation. Three areas off the coast of Asturias and five areas off the coast of Galicia (one south of Pontevedra, three off Mariña, in Lugo, and one-off Ferrol), for a total of eight areas. The closest authorised areas to the coast are 21 kilometres from the mainland; the furthest is 31 kilometres.

Levantino-Balearic marine demarcation: 474.99 square kilometres, distributed in three areas: LeBa 1 (off the coast of Girona), with a surface area of 249.9 square kilometres, a minimum distance of 12 kilometres from the coast and waters with depths of between 100 and 500 metres; LeBa 2 (off the northeast of Menorca), has 147.35 square kilometres and a minimum distance from the coast of five kilometres, and LeBa 3 of some 75 square kilometres off the east coast of Menorca.

Marine demarcation of the Strait of Gibraltar and Alboran: 1,222.61 square kilometres are authorised for wind energy.

Canary Islands marine demarcation: four zones with a total of 561.87 square kilometres are authorised, with a maritime area off the south-east coast of the island of Tenerife; off the south-east coast of the island of Gran Canaria; off the east coast of the island of Lanzarote; and off the south-east coast of the island of Fuerteventura.


So-called Blue Energy can become one of the levers for energy transformation in the medium and long term at the European and national level, as well as an industrial, economic and social opportunity for our country, in a coherent and compatible way with the protection of environmental values and the rest of the uses and activities of the marine environment.

Certainly, the development of offshore wind will not only benefit directly related sectors, such as the manufacture of wind turbines and components or the energy sector, but other relevant sectors of the Spanish economy such as, the shipping, shipyard and port industries; engineering; transport and logistics or the insurance sector can benefit and contribute to the value chain of offshore wind in Spain. The POEMs are configured as the starting point for a regulatory development that guarantees the necessary legal certainty to allow the design, call and calendar of future auctions and the subsequent implementation of awarded projects, avoiding future conflicts.

The POEMs are the starting point for a regulatory development that ensures the necessary legal certainty for the general permitting of projects and for the design, call and setting of the calendar of future auctions, as well as for the subsequent execution of awarded projects, avoiding possible future conflicts.


Additional authors:

Miguel Parra, Trainee Lawyer

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