Consenting of offshore renewable energy projects: implementing a risk based approach

The project aims to support the achievement of over-arching European policies - such as the Integrated Maritime Policy, the Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan and Blue Growth strategy. The latter policy clearly identifies marine renewable energy as a sector with huge opportunities. For example, it is stated that by 2030 offshore wind could supply 14% of the EU’s total electricity demand and provide 300,000 jobs. With respect to wave and tidal energy, the Blue Growth strategy asserts that the challenge for these technologies is to accelerate the commercialisation of ocean energy through reductions in technology costs as world-wide demand is expected to double annually in the near future. Other Commission initiatives, such as the Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation and the Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area have acknowledged the importance of ocean energy and seek to encourage collaborative research and development as well as transboundary cooperation to boost its development.

Five specific means to achieve these aims have been undertaken by RiCORE:

  • Ensuring speedy and user friendly permitting procedures
  • Implementing renewable energy policies, codes and legislation at EU, national, regional and local levels in a coordinated manner using best practice examples with significant replication potential
  • Capacity building and contributing to the further development of renewable energy policy, legislation and regulation, and informing the debate on post-2020 horizons
  • Ensuring sustained public acceptance of renewable energy projects and renewable energy overall, while taking into account the implications of the substantial increase in Renewable energy sources share in the final energy consumption
  • Capacity building and facilitating the deployment of improved business models and innovative financing schemes for mobilising investments in innovative and established renewable energy systems and services

The EU’s 2030 Energy Strategy and its associated targets aim to help the EU achieve a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system and to meet its long-term 2050 greenhouse gas reductions target. Offshore renewable energy is one possible technology source that can contribute to meeting the EU’s over-arching renewable energy targets. Whilst individual technologies are still at differing stages of commercial development, with offshore wind already commercial and wave technologies still in the R&D stage, it is prudent to ensure that individual Member States with high wind and wave resources have a governance system in place that facilitates the realization of commercial projects once the technologies are commercially viable.

The Renewable Energy Directive has recognized the role that consenting and administrative systems have in operationalizing renewable energy projects. Other Commission initiatives, such as the Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation and the Atlantic Action Plan, have recognised the importance of ocean energy and the need for cross-border cooperation to boost its development. In a project context the geographic focus must be limited but an event like this offers the project an opportunity to extend its reach into other Member States as well as European institutions.

It is probable that most other events proposed will focus on terrestrial forms of renewable energy. The EU has placed great focus on the marine environment, and ORE, in recent law and policy instruments, e.g. the Integrated Maritime Policy, the Blue Growth Strategy, the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, the creation of an Ocean Energy Forum and Communication from the Commission on action needed to deliver on the potential of ocean energy in European seas and oceans by 2020 and beyond. It is therefore important that the marine dimension to renewable energy be given a dedicated arena at the Sustainable Energy Week. Whilst most other forms of terrestrial renewable energy are at a more advanced stage of commercial development, in their development they will also have encountered the types of issues relating to consenting and environmental impacts that offshore renewables now face.