Marine renewable energy developments are regulated under Scottish Planning Policy and a range of energy-related acts and plans. The Blue Seas Green Energy Sectoral Marine Plans provide a planning framework with defined zones and areas for future offshore developments. These policies largely adhere to principles of adaptive governance, but lack concrete integration measures and institutional arrangements for successful real-world application. As Scottish marine renewables are only just developing, there’s good potential to shape a truly integrative approach to governance as it emerges.
1) integration at the level of actors and activities
2) spatial and temporal scale integration
3) integration at the level of the full socio-ecological system
Current planning practices do well in incorporating the second tier, integrating marine plans with energy plans and national and European planning policy, while strategic plans incorporate the long-term perspective.
Professor Richard Barnes and colleagues at the University of Hull, encourage co-location as a legally feasible spatial planning strategy. They make the case for co-location based on increasing competition for space, but also highlight potential related benefits.
Cooperation and collaboration will be fundamental to institutionalised co-location planning to a higher degree than is the case in current MSP. A regulatory framework should facilitate engagement of planning authorities, developers and stakeholders, already in the location-selection phase and throughout the project planning, design and implementation phases. This entails networking modes of governance, with maintained trust between actors as a major concern, due to the high-risk nature of the renewable energy sector. Market mechanisms and regulations could serve to encourage cooperation, build trust between stakeholders and address issues of financial risk.
In addition to such deeper processes of integration, attention should also be given to broader processes of integration. Public opinion is a central concern for renewable energy planning.
Dr Maarten Wolsink identifies the public-opinion problem as an institutional one, a problem with central planning and the framing of decision-making. Following his and other research, participation and equity are key issues to address. Participation relates to the decision-making process, and goes hand in hand with the need for deeper and more thorough stakeholder involvement, earlier in the planning process. Participation is not meaningful if reduced to simple consultation after the completion of project design and announcement.
Aside from the institutional framework, other pressing issues related to ownership and equity. It is peculiar that, as greater emphasis is placed on local ownership of onshore renewable energy developments in Scotland, and with international evidence of high success rates of locally owned developments – both on and offshore – Scotland’s offshore renewable plans involve no level of community ownership or local investment possibility. The Crown Estate owns and manages the vast majority of Scottish marine territory, and explicitly prevents local management agreements when it comes to offshore renewables development.
Equity and connection to local economies play a major role in shaping public support (Wolsink 2005).