Various EU policies identify marine energy, an array of technologies, as a key emerging area (Renewable Energy Sources Directive, Europe 2020 Strategy). Their development is, among other reasons, conditioned upon their social acceptability. Hence, their deployment depends on the ability of developers to work with communities and stakeholders to ensure consideration to local concerns and needs. How this is achieved is not outlined in European law and national governments must work out their own strategies to overcome the barriers linked to social acceptability.
This guide focuses on the technologies harnessing wave, tidal and current energy through semi or fully submerged devices. Offshore wind is also included as its maturity offers transferable lessons to future marine-based systems.
The focus is on the community level of acceptance and distinguishing it from the public /socio-political acceptance and the market acceptance, more limited to technological uptake. The guide presents evidence from a number of European examples that reinforces the key message of this report – the needs and objectives of developers are best met by working with stakeholders and building trust, adopting collaborative rather than adversarial positions.
Social acceptability of a given project is the result of a shared effort between developers and stakeholders to set the ideal conditions for integrating the project within its environmental and human context (ENEA, 2012).
Experiences are presented around a matrix combining the selection of marine renewable energy projects and the generic type of strategies deployed to cover interested parties in planning and implementing following three important paths as summarised by Soerensen et al. (2003) as:
- through information about ongoing development (information)
- through involvement in the decision making process (planning participation)
- through stakeholder engagement with financial involvement in the project (financial participation)
It is important to note here that each strategy does not exclude the other ones.
At this stage developers could be guided toward best practice in the following ways;
- Start stakeholder engagement as early as possible.
- Ensure that relevant information is made accessible to all stakeholders.
- Develop a sound platform of exchange – and do it in a timely: Going beyond minimal requirements.
- Illustrate as clearly as possible the potential impacts and benefits of the project.
- Create direct opportunities for local businesses by linking them to the project from inception to operation.
- Foster financial participation to renewable marine energy project: from stakeholder to shareholder.
The reach of the conclusions and their potential generalisation are limited by the number of projects reviewed. To date, projects generally lack maturity and most are either test or pilot sites which may not reflect the conditions of larger industrial scale projects. However, the experiences from mature offshore wind farms and other relevant marine projects have transferable best practices.
This is not a step by step guide and it is to be complemented by another document including a toolbox and associated methodology.