Friday, April 11, 2014

A vision for marine renewable energy in Scotland....

The following is an article by Caroline Sejer Damgaard from the University of St Andrews, Department of Geography and Sustainable Development

Due to increasing human activities such as fishery, shipping, resource extraction and recreation, the ocean is becoming increasingly crowded and characterized by competition for space. Scotland has the largest offshore renewable energy resources in Europe, estimated at 200GW offshore wind- tidal and wave resources, and with the national goal of meeting 100% of Scottish electricity consumption by 2020, offshore
developments are central to the government’s energy plans. For maximisation of the Scottish potential, there is need to reframe discourses of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) from issues of competition to issues of potential and integration.

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.

MSP is integrative, bringing together distinct planning practices and sectors under the umbrella of a coherent spatial plan. However, a deeper, broader concept of integration is desirable. In order to facilitate more efficient, multi-level integration, a planning framework could benefit from the application of a three-tiered concept of integration (Potts et al 2012):

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. 

At the levels of actors and activities and, to some extent, the wider social-ecological system, integrative processes could be developed further.

To ensure sustainable management of oceans while supporting offshore renewable energy developments, the concept of co-location needs to enter into planning. Stakeholder involvement is not in and of itself sufficient, rather reconceptualising marine space and functions could encourage multi-functional use of space, inspire a move from fundamentally competitive uses to integrated uses. This could involve windfarm-location within a marine conservation area, fishing-allowance in or in the vicinity of the farm, co-location of different renewable technologies, or even big co-location platforms integrating renewables, aquaculture, transport and recreation, as explored through, for example, the European TROPOS project.

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. 

Windfarm establishments may function as automatic regulation of environmentally destructive fishing practices such as trawling, and may even result in habitat enhancement. Evidence from windfarms in Denmark and Germany, for example, shows that windfarms provide healthy habitats for blue mussels, oysters and seaweed, and potentially good breeding grounds for certain species of fish. 

The potential is there, but an enabling, supportive regulatory framework is essential. Successful co-location is highly site-specific, and will require extensive Environmental Impact Assessments, as well as stakeholder support, developer co-operation, and public support. 

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. 

The “not in my back yard” effect has been commonly accepted as cause of opposition to developments, but recent research indicates that, not only does that theory fail to capture important aspects of opinion formation, it prevents appropriate dialogue and solutions.

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). 

World-leaders in offshore renewable energy such as Denmark and Germany are characterised by local ownership of the majority of wind energy establishments, and Scotland is seeing immense success and growth of onshore community renewables. This change in ownership dynamics is seen as key to meeting Scotland’s 2020 target, but marine planning policy does not reflect these trends. Financial engagement of the public, community ownership and local investment could not only benefit local economies, it could stimulate a shift in public perception of offshore windfarms from one of contestation and intrusion to one of potential and inclusion.

1 comment:

  1. I read your post and i appreciate your efforts. The information that you share in the above article is very nice and useful .All the things that you share with people, are very nice. Thanks for this article