The purpose of this white paper is to support consensus and alignment around a sustainable North Sea renewable energy system and to explore the potential for North Sea renewable energy development to increase marine biodiversity. It does not set out a full assessment of ecological risks and opportunities. This paper is the third in a series of thought leadership pieces on the potential of a North Sea Offshore Powerhouse. The first and second pieces are A Potential North Sea Grid Powerhouse and The North Sea as a Hub for Renewable Energy, Sustainable Economies, and Biodiversity. Ecofys, a Navigant company, has a long track record in advising and working with many of the stakeholders involved in developing the North Sea renewable energy system. This work is independent and not funded by a third party. It is undertaken as part of the company’s contribution to the growth of the industry.
Ecofys spoke to stakeholders from around the North Sea, including the European Commission services and national authorities, transmission system operators (TSOs) and offshore wind developers, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and fishery associations. The team asked for their opinions on the implications of the large number of projected offshore wind turbines in the North Sea and their level of involvement, what they believed the key knowledge gaps and anticipated ecological effects and benefits could be, and about how they had been engaged with as stakeholders. Finally, the team analysed stakeholders’ reaction to a set of provocative hypotheses that included accelerating offshore wind rollout and maximising ecological benefits versus a rigid focus on impact mitigation.