Risk Retirement


Risk Retirement 

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 might be 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.

Risk Retirement Figure

OES-Environmental has developed a Risk Retirement Pathway to guide risk retirement for MRE developments. The steps in the risk retirement process are:

  1. Determine if a likely/plausible risk exists for a particular project;
  2. Determine whether sufficient data exists to demonstrate the significance of the risk;
  3. Collect additional data to determine whether the risk is significant;
  4. Apply existing mitigation measures to determine whether the risk can be mitigated (if so, the risk can be retired); and
  5. 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.

Data Transferability

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:

  1. 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
  2. Data Collection Consistency Table ‒ provides preferred measurement methods or processes, reporting units, and the most common methods of analysis or interpretation/use of data
  3. Monitoring Datasets Discoverability Matrix ‒ allows a practitioner to discover datasets based on the approach presented in the Data Transferability Framework
  4. 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 classifies monitoring datasets from already consented/permitted projects for six stressors (i.e., collision, underwater noise, electromagnetic fields, habitat change, displacement, changes to flow). The matrix is an interactive tool that will allow regulators and/or developers to discover datasets and evaluate the consistency of information and therefore the ability to transfer data from an already consented project to future projects.

The Monitoring Datasets Discoverability Matrix is currently under development and will be made available in early 2020.

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 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)