Conversion of marine energy sources, including ocean waves and tidal currents, into electricity is a rapidly developing industry. Although many technologies have been proposed and some have generated electricity at full scale, it is difficult to predict which technology will be economic at large scales of installation. Several studies have been conducted which estimate the cost of electricity on the basis of schematic designs. However, each study represents a best estimate of the future cost based on current design details and direct comparison between the results of these studies is not straightforward. A methodology for directly comparing different wave energy concepts and potential locations would be beneficial to aid investment decisions. In this study we describe how the established data envelopment analysis technique could be employed for this purpose. The developed model is employed to rank the efficacy with which several types of conceptual and prototype wave energy conversion technologies generate electricity from the wave energy resource available at UK and US sites. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.