The term risk retirement has been used within the MRE community for several years as short hand for identifying interactions of small numbers of devices that are unlikely to cause harm to marine animals or habitats, and that should not require extensive investigations at every new MRE project. OES-Environmental has taken steps to further refine and provide a process for exploring this concept.
Under the Ocean Energy Systems (OES) OES-Environmental task, a process for risk retirement has been developed to provide a community consensus on the level of risk perceived to exist for certain stressor/receptor interactions. The risk retirement process helps determine which interactions of MRE devices and the marine environment are low risk and may be “retired”, and which may need further data collection or mitigation applied to reduce the risks to an acceptable level. Sufficient data are needed for risk retirement; transferring data and information from consented/permitted (hereafter, consented) projects can assist regulators in their determinations and inform developers and other stakeholders of what level of data collection might be expected. If data from baseline assessments and post-installation monitoring programs are collected consistently, the results can be evaluated and applied to increase understanding of the environmental effects, supporting more efficient consenting processes and reducing scientific uncertainty. OES-Environmental is currently focusing on risk retirement for underwater noise and electromagnetic fields.
OES-Environmental has developed a risk retirement pathway to guide risk retirement for MRE developments. The steps in the risk retirement process are:
- Determine if a likely/plausible risk exists for a particular project;
- Determine whether sufficient data exists to demonstrate the significance of the risk;
- Collect additional data to determine whether the risk is significant;
- Apply existing mitigation measures to determine whether the risk can be mitigated (if so, the risk can be retired); and
- Test novel mitigation measures to determine whether the risk can be mitigated (if so, the risk can be retired).
If none of the steps can determine the risk to be insignificant, the project will need to be redesigned or perhaps abandoned. Between and among the steps in the risk retirement process there is a need to examine available data and mitigation measures in order to provide feedback among steps.
More information on risk retirement and the pathway can also be found in the Risk Retirement for Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy report.
A key aspect of using the risk retirement process is ensuring that datasets from consented MRE projects are readily available and catalogued so that a project subject to consenting and licensing permission can be compared to an already consented project in terms of the stressor/receptor interactions, the size and technologies involved in the projects, and the methodologies used to collect data. The process of data transferability is a primary aspect of the second stage of the risk retirement process (examine existing data) and consists of four components:
- Data transferability framework ‒ brings together datasets in an organized fashion, compares the applicability of each dataset for use in other locations, and guides the process of data transfer
- Data collection consistency table ‒ provides preferred measurement methods or processes, reporting units, and the most common methods of analysis or interpretation/use of data
- Monitoring datasets discoverability matrix ‒ allows a practitioner to discover datasets based on the approach presented in the data transferability framework
- Best Management Practices (BMPs) ‒ four BMPs related to data transferability and collection consistency
More information, including links to relevant workshop presentations, recordings, and reports can be found on the data transferability page.
Monitoring Datasets Discoverability Matrix
The monitoring datasets discoverability matrix (matrix) classifies monitoring datasets from already consented projects for six stressors (collision, underwater noise, electromagnetic fields, habitat change, displacement/barrier effects, changes to physical systems). The matrix will allow regulators and/or developers to discover datasets and evaluate the consistency of information from an already consented project that will allow for the transfer of data to future projects. By doing so, the goal is to increase the efficiency of consenting processes and decrease the need for new monitoring when applicable data already exists.
As part of the risk retirement process, OES-Environmental has developed "evidence bases" for several key stressors. These stressors were chosen because they are considered to present relatively low risk to marine animals and the environment, and could potentially be retired. The evidence bases are lists of key research papers and monitoring reports for each stressor that support risk retirement for small numbers of MRE devices. The evidence bases have been reviewed by international subject matter experts at conferences and online workshops as part of OES-Environmental's outreach and engagement strategy.
- Electromagnetic Fields Evidence Base
- Underwater Noise Evidence Base
- Habitat Change Evidence Base
- Changes in Oceanographic Systems Evidence Base (coming soon)
Outreach & Engagement
OES-Environmental continues to engage with the MRE community (i.e., developers, regulators, researchers, and stakeholders) and subject matter experts as part of the development of the risk retirement process.
OES-Environmental Webinar: Risk Retirement for Marine Renewable Energy (online, September 2020)
OES-Environmental Workshop: Risk Retirement for Habitat Change (online, August 2020)
- OES-Environmental & ORJIP Workshop: Environmental Effects and Risk Retirement (Sydney, Australia, December 2019)
- OES-Environmental Workshop: Retiring Risk for MRE Projects to Support Permitting (OREC, Portland, Oregon, September 2019)
- OES Environmental & ORJIP Workshop: Retiring Risks of MRE Environmental Interactions to Support Consenting/Permitting (EWTEC, Napoli, Italy, September 2019)
- Retiring Risk and Data Transferability Workshops for US Regulators (May 2019)