This “Monitoring and Research Programme 2017-2021” describes the overall monitoring and research programme for the Dutch Offshore Wind Ecological Programme (Wozep). Wozep is part of the assignment from the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ ED 2020) for Rijkswaterstaat (RWS). In 2015, EZ ED 2020 decided to set up an integrated monitoring and research programme to study gaps in our knowledge relating to the impact of offshore wind farms on the ecosystem of the North Sea. This generic programme was established in response to a recommendation from RWS, that knowledge gaps are primarily generic rather than specific for individual offshore wind farms (OWFs). This conclusion was based on research and monitoring set out for and executed during Round 1 and 2 OWFs. This led to the establishment of Wozep. The scope set out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs to RWS was issued in late 2015 for the period 2016 to 2021.
Wozep is not the first project to investigate the ecological impact of OWFs in the southern North Sea. During the last decade, the government has initiated several research programmes (the Shortlist and Master Plan Offshore Wind Energy (VUM) programmes) to study these ecological impacts, in addition to the mandatory monitoring and evaluation programmes (MEPs) for OWFs for which licences were granted. Both types of projects have provided valuable results. The first MEP of the pilot OWF OWEZ (Egmond aan Zee) (2006-2010), set out the basis of the Master Plan (2010). Additional research programmes and the consecutive MEPs for the OWFs Prinses Amalia (PAWP), Luchterduinen and GEMINI established the backbone of the long term ecological monitoring of offshore wind1 . The Master Plan was updated in 2014-2015.
In the Monitoring and Research Programme 2017-2021 (MRP 17-21) the outline of the complete research and monitoring programme for the period 2017-2021 is set out. The programme leaves room for flexibility where required. Instances where flexibility may be required include but are not limited to:
· Changes following results from the undertaken research;
· Changes in policy; and
· Changes in priorities going forward.
In light of the above, we see the MRP 17-21 as a 75% outline which will be amended annually. The choices made and priorities given in this MRP 17-21 will be described as transparently as possible to set out the purpose of the research and how the findings will be used. In addition to the MRP 17-21, a separate Plan for 2017 will be developed. This will consist of the research from the MRP 17-21 that will take place during the year.
Monitoring and research in Wozep must contribute to the following three objectives:
· Reduce (scientific) uncertainties concerning knowledge gaps and assumptions from the Framework Ecology and Cumulation (KEC), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA).
· Reduce uncertainties concerning knowledge gaps and assumptions regarding long term impacts and upscaling of OWFs (in relation to OWF plans that may follow up on the roll-out of the Energy Agreement2 ).
· Determine effectiveness of mitigation measures (in the context of the 40% cost reduction in the Energy Agreement).
Wozep is part of an adaptive management process surrounding the legislative process for offshore wind in the Netherlands. Adaptive Management is a decision process that promotes flexible decision making that can be adjusted in the face of uncertainties as outcomes from management actions and other events are better understood3 . Careful monitoring of these outcomes both advances scientific understanding and helps adjust policies or operations as part of an iterative learning process. Part of adaptive management is the iterative cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA): as information and data are gathered over time, management approaches and decisions can be adapted to better accommodate the ecological process or system being managed, leading to better understanding of the target ecological system and improved management decisions (see Figure 1).
In the offshore wind legislative process this cycle is applied in the following way: in “Planning” EIA, AAs and the KEC are drawn up to determine whether and under what conditions wind farm site decisions could be issued for the selected wind farm sites. In “Doing” the goal is to reduce the scientific uncertainties around the assumptions made in Planning. This is the role of Wozep within the PDCA-cycle. In Wozep, the most important assumptions and associated uncertainties have been identified and linked to proposed research projects (see 1.2 for a description of this process). In “Checking” results from Wozep will be evaluated by checking against the assumptions made in Planning. This can lead to an adjustment in policies (“Act”) for the next Planning phase. It can also lead to a direct adjustment of research proposals and priorities within the Wozep monitoring and research programme.
This logically applies to the first two goals of Wozep mentioned above, but also to the third goal of reducing uncertainties around the further upscaling of offshore wind. Therefore, by identifying uncertainties during Planning, attention was also paid to these types of uncertainties, specifically when certain ecological limits will be met.