The marine environment has the capacity to provide large amounts of clean, renewable energy through its waves and tides. As marine renewable energy (MRE) devices are being tested, concerns regarding the potential effects of MRE devices on marine organisms, habitats, and ecosystem processes continue to slow permitting. To address these concerns, and further advance the industry, an international collaboration with 15 nations (OES-Environmental) has engaged with MRE regulators, researchers, and developers to make environmental permitting processes more efficient.
Since 2017, OES-Environmental has focused outreach efforts on the MRE community to identify needs and challenges for permitting MRE devices. Webinars and an online survey for US regulators were used to gauge understanding of MRE technologies, perceptions of risks and key challenges, and thoughts on how the industry can best move forward. Feedback indicated that regulators are generally unfamiliar with MRE, lack access to synthesized and contextualized data on environmental effects, and are willing to use existing data from permitted projects to inform permitting for proposed projects (“data transferability”).
Based on this, OES-Environmental developed a systematic process for cataloging, analyzing, and disseminating datasets to support data transferability. This process was presented to MRE regulators, researchers, and developers through several workshops in order to assess the applicability of the data transferability process, refine best practices for data transfer and collection consistency, and further improve the process. Consistently, the MRE community communicated that while this process would aid permitting, there was a need for easily accessible data. As a result, OES-Environmental developed a Monitoring Datasets Discoverability Matrix that classifies and catalogs datasets for six environmental stressors-receptor interactions. Through iterative reviews with regulators and the MRE community, the matrix has become a useful online tool for permitting that can help move the MRE industry forward.