Towards a Net Zero Future: Marine spatial planning for maritime renewable energy installations


Marine spatial planning (MSP) is being adopted internationally to support the sustainable use of national marine space (Douvere 2008). It is a process that leads to the production of plans intended to guide or regulate maritime sectors, including renewable energy infrastructure, particularly the appropriate location and timing of activities. The emphasis is upon avoiding conflict of uses, efficient use of space and environmental protection.

However, MSP is at a relatively early stage, with many jurisdictions still in the first cycle of plan-making and implementation. The extent to which plans are actually facilitating the development of maritime renewables is unclear. It is possible that plans are not providing sufficient specificity to guide development, or that development is proceeding with little reference to marine plans. This would undermine the rationale of MSP, which is to ensure effective integration of marine uses and interests, not least with the intention of protecting marine ecosystems (Grip & Blomqvist 2021).

This project will investigate the role of MSP in facilitating maritime renewable development in MSP processes, through both plan-making and plan implementation (the use and influence of adopted plans in decision-making), with a view to addressing shortcomings in MSP processes in this respect (Yates & Bradshaw 2018).

The research will involve quantitative and qualitative analysis of a select number of MSP processes from different jurisdictions in order to assess the provisions for maritime renewable development within plans and the ways in which plans and follow-on measures are being used to support development.  A two-tier approach will be taken, beginning with a broad assessment of MSP processes via documentary analysis and online survey, followed by in-depth case study of a selection of maritime renewable projects using a range of methods such as documentary analysis, expert interview and stakeholder engagement. There will be scope for theoretical reflection drawing on decision-making theory, and the research will lead to recommendations for improved practice.

This project is suitable for a student with a background in spatial planning, governance processes, environmental management, marine management, human geography, or similar.


The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Net Zero Maritime Energy solutions (N0MES) has a 4-year funded PhD place available for an exceptional researcher. With the support of the University of Liverpool (UoL), Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and 33 maritime energy sector partners, N0MES PGRs will pursue new, engineering-centred, interdisciplinary research to address four vital net zero challenges currently facing the North West, the UK and beyond:

a) Energy generation using maritime-based renewable energy (e.g. offshore wind, tidal, wave, floating solar, hydrogen, CCS);

b) Distributing energy from offshore to onshore, including port- and hinterland-side impacts and opportunities;

c) Addressing the short- and long-term environmental impacts of offshore and maritime

environment renewable energy generation, distribution and storage; and

d) Decommissioning and lifetime extension of existing energy and facilities.

We want all of our staff and Students to feel that Liverpool is an inclusive and welcoming environment that actively celebrates and encourages diversity. We are committed to working with students to make all reasonable project adaptations including supporting those with caring responsibilities, disabilities or other personal circumstances. For example, If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students Allowance on top of your studentship to help cover the costs of any additional support that a person studying for a doctorate might need as a result.

We believe everyone deserves an excellent education and encourage students from all backgrounds and personal circumstances to apply.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master’s Degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field of Engineering. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.


Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form [How to apply for a PhD - University of Liverpool] applying for a PhD in Environmental Science and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up-to-date CV, two academic references and a supporting statement [maximum 300 words] detailing; what inspires you within this project, how your skill set matches the project, up to 3 examples showing your commitment to science, piece of science that excites you & anything else to support your application.

Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor Dr Stephen Jay , those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the CDT Manager Matt Fulton [].




Open to students worldwide

Funding information

Funded studentship

The EPSRC funded Studentship will cover full tuition fees of £4,786 per year and pay a maintenance grant for 4 years, starting at the UKRI minimum of £19,237 pa. for 2024-2025. The Studentship also comes with access to additional funding in the form of a research training support grant which is available to fund conference attendance, fieldwork, internships etc.

EPSRC Studentships are available to any prospective student wishing to apply including international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise of international students and they will not be charged the fee difference between UK and international rate.



Douvere, F. (2008) The importance of marine spatial planning in advancing ecosystem-based sea use management, Marine Policy 32 (5) 762-771
Grip, K. & Blomqvist, S. (2021) MSP Coordinating Divergent Marine Interests, Ambio, 50, 1172–1183
Yates, K. & Bradshaw, C. (eds) (2018) Offshore Energy and Marine Spatial Planning, Routledge, London