Name: David Gray (project coordinator)
Address: Research Institute for Management, Governance and Society (IMaGeS), Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen AB10 7QE, Scotland, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 7920 080130
The consenting of offshore renewable energy is often cited as one of the main non-technical barriers to the development of this sector. A significant aspect of this is the uncertainty inherent in the potential environmental impacts of novel technology. To ensure consents are compliant with EU and national legislation, such as the Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats Directive, costly and time consuming surveys are required even for perceived lower risk technologies in sites which may not be of highest environmental sensitivity.
It is therefore the aim of the RiCORE project to establish a risk-based approach to consenting where the level of survey requirement is based on the environmental sensitivity of the site, the risk profile of the technology and the scale of the proposed project.
RiCORE will study the legal framework in place in the partner Member States to ensure the framework developed will be applicable for roll out across these Member States and further afield.
European Union – Horizon2020 Program.
The aim of the RiCORE project was to establish a risk-based approach to consenting where the level of survey requirement is based on the environmental sensitivity of the site, the risk profile of the technology and the scale of the proposed project. The RiCORE project studied the legal framework in place in the partner Member States to ensure the framework developed was applicable for roll out across these Member States and further afield. The RiCORE project then considered the practices, methodologies and implementation of pre-consent surveys, post consent and post-deployment monitoring in order to allow a feedback loop to inform the development of the risk-based framework for the environmental aspects of consent and provide best practice. The project achieved these aims by engaging with the relevant stakeholders including the regulators, industry and EIA practitioners, through a series of expert workshops and developing their outcomes into guidance.
Key findings of each of the WPs of the project are the following:
- WP2 Profiling Member State consenting processes and reconciling EU legal requirements: the absence of an ORE-specific consenting process, the lack of clear and focused EIA guidance, and multiple competent authorities are key barriers to project consenting. The legal basis for Adaptive Management is not a problem but entrenched administrative processes may hamper the ability to take an Adaptive Management approach. There appears to be little consistency in the approaches taken to measure or interpret environmental data and information between and within Member States. In many instances the presence of a European protected site or species under nature conservation legislation complicates consenting of ORE projects. Guidance is needed to explain Adaptive Management and risk-based approaches to regulators and developers as well as other marine users.
- WP3 Survey, Deploy & Monitor: following the description of the SDM policy and the analysis of the case studies different aspects of improvement were identified: (i) extend the risk-based approach to post-consenting processes; (ii) update the criteria for the evaluation of the scale of the project; (iii) establish a set of common criteria for the evaluation of the environmental sensitivity of a specific location; (iv) update and review of the expected environmental impacts of the different technologies; (v) include some guidance on the methodology for pre- and post-consenting monitoring and; (vi) introduce the aspect of uncertainty in the risk based approach. Taking into account the 19 technology types across all three technology categories that were identified and the above mentioned point of improvement, a review and further development of the three main pillars on which the SDM approach is based was undertaken: (i) environmental sensitivity of the site, (ii) the risk profile of the technology and (iii) the scale of the proposed project.
- WP4 Pre-consent survey optimization: information on pre-consent monitoring practices has been compiled for the assessment of the effects of MRE developments on relevant receptors (seabirds, marine mammals, fish and shellfish and the seabed and benthic environment). In general, methodologies to assess most of the parameters identified for each receptor seemed to be applicable to all MRE types. A compilation was also made of the innovative technologies that are currently being developed for marine environment monitoring. The costs of many of the listed approaches were also considered and it was found that these costs varied substantially among receptor groups. Although the cost is an important consideration in survey design, the logistical constraints and the requirements requested by regulators should be coupled to ensure that these can be met by selecting a suitable survey method. The use of power analysis can provide useful information on the ability of data gathered to create a baseline for detecting change. It is likely to become a commonly used approach in pre-consent survey design, as it can identify how much data are required to address the requests made by regulators and at the same time contribute to a better understanding of the costs involved, considering the data that already exists. It is considered unlikely that pre-consent site characterization surveys will have sufficient statistical power for fully achieving this purpose and their main utility is to inform consenting decisions. The information gathered supports the development of guidance on pre-consent surveys taking into account risk based approaches such as SDM, and is available through the project website.
- WP5 Post-Consent & Post-Deployment monitoring standardization: Under this work package workshop attendees provided feedback on post-consent monitoring approaches during workshops, details of which are contained in the workshop reports. The further tasks were to review the suitability of Adaptive Management as a policy approach to guide post-consent monitoring that is able to meaningfully inform risk-based consenting of marine renewable energy by reducing key scientific uncertainties that could serve to delay decision making by regulators. Examples of applying the approach are considered and recommendations on good practice provided. The RiCORE project has identified that post-consent monitoring that is able to meaningfully reduce key scientific uncertainties remains challenging owing to a range of issues relating to the scientific quality of studies that are undertaken. The need for a question-led approach, study designs that can provide sufficient relevant information and the need for decision makers to engage with the issues associated with sampling intensity and statistical power were reviewed. Recommendations to enable regulators to apply risk-based approaches that can provide them with greater confidence were also made.
List of deliverables available in the project website.