The OES-Environmental 2020 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World builds on and serves as an update and a complement to the 2013 Final Report for Phase 1 of OES-Environmental and the 2016 State of the Science Report. Its content reflects the most current and pertinent published information about interactions of marine renewable energy (MRE) devices and associated infrastructure with the animals and habitats that make up the marine environment. It has been developed and reviewed by over 60 international experts and scientists from around the world as part of an ongoing effort supported by the OES collaboration that operates within the International Technology Cooperation Framework of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In the four years since the publication of the 2016 State of the Science report, our understanding of several stressor-receptor interactions has increased as a result of additional MRE deployments and monitoring efforts, research studies in the laboratory and in the field, and modeling studies. As such, the risk to marine animals from underwater noise generated from MRE devices, along with electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by export cables and MRE devices, may be candidates for retirement, because the evidence bases for these stressor-receptor interactions indicate that the actual risk to marine animals is low for single or small numbers of devices. The risk of marine mammals and fish colliding with moving parts of tidal and river turbines continues to be the greatest concern for regulators and stakeholders.
The body of knowledge about the potential effects of MRE development can be used to help streamline consenting processes and support the responsible development of MRE through the implementation of strategies such as marine spatial planning, adaptive management, and risk retirement. How these management strategies may support consenting and management of MRE project needs to be considered through the following lenses:
- Data collection, analysis, and reporting for consenting must be proportionate to the size of the MRE project and the likely risk to marine animals and habitats. While some site-specific data collection will be required to meet consenting requirements, knowledge of stressor-receptor relationships and likely risk from already-consented projects, analogous industries, and research studies can be relied upon to support proportionate consenting.
- Both marine spatial planning (MSP) and adaptive management (AM) can play critical roles in assessing whether sufficient evidence has been gathered to evaluate potential risks of MRE development to the marine environment. MSP can help facilitate the coordinated and environmentally informed siting of MRE developments within the marine sector, leaning on the evidence base to support management decisions. The “learning by doing” approach of AM supports iterative learning and expansion of the evidence base from each subsequent project, resulting in proportionate monitoring and mitigation requirements.
- Knowledge gained from consented MRE deployments, along with lessons learned from analogous offshore industries and research projects, can be evaluated to determine their applicability to inform consenting at new MRE sites. Data transferability, within the risk retirement pathway, aims to make the routine transfer of evidence more efficient.
- A fully data-supported risk retirement process can help determine which interactions have sufficient evidence and where significant uncertainties remain. By retiring specific issues for a small number of MRE devices, the focus can be directed toward examining more challenging stressor-receptor relationships, such as collision risk for marine mammals around turbines.
The Short Science Summary for the chapter is available here.