A Scottish Government commissioned task force released a report this week outlining a series of recommendations to reduce costs and timeframes for offshore planning applications. The report can be found here. The task force, made up of the Crown Estate, Marine Scotland, environmental regulators and renewable developers identified a number of areas in which the planning process for offshore renewable developments could be improved.
For example, they recommended that a national database of survey data should be created. This would serve to reduce costs, timescales and avoid duplication. Work on identifying suitable sites for test facilities; particularly for deep water offshore wind developments was recommended as an early priority. Common standards of data collection and assessment should be introduced to ensure that developers have confidence in their information. Consultation with other sea users should take place before an application is submitted into planning rather than after as it is currently. This would further help to reduce costs and timescales.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the reports recommendations:
“The Scottish Government and our agencies are determined to build a strong, sustainable and world-leading offshore renewables industry, bringing jobs and investment to countries around the country. An increasing number of major overseas firms are already joining leading Scottish companies to invest in the development of wind, wave and tidal in Scotland. As we move towards our 2020 target of ensuring renewables contribute at least 100 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity demand, it is important that the scoping, planning, development and deployment of offshore wind, wave and tidal generation is done as effectively as possible.
“That requires developers to consult early with other industries and with communities and to use common standards when surveying potential sites, while it requires public agencies to commit sufficient resources to be able to provide good information, timely advice and clear decisions to developers and other interested parties.
“Scotland’s distinct approach to sectoral marine planning has already provided clarity for developers. By ensuring that government, developers and others get things right at the strategic planning and earliest licensing stages we can cut the time and resource spent on inappropriate developments and allow a greater focus on those areas with the best opportunities to harness resources sustainably. In that way we will reduce our reliance on other forms of fossil fuel-generated power and help tackle damaging climate change.”
The reports findings have been welcomed by a number of relevant parties. Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland commented: “We need to make sure we get the right renewables in the right places. The recommendations from the task force are very helpful.”
Scottish and Southern Energy’s Managing Director for Renewables, Jim Smith remarked:
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the issues faced by the offshore renewables industry around consenting. The recommendations of the task force are an important step forward in addressing those issues and we look forward to seeing them implemented. We sincerely hope that these measures help unlock the enormous potential of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy projects around Scotland.”
Alan Moritmer, Head of Innovation for ScottishPower Renewables:
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to improve the consenting process for marine and offshore renewables, and the opportunity we have had to assist in the development of the report and its recommendations. Marine and offshore renewables have the potential to make a huge contribution to Scotland’s energy needs as well as placing this country in a prime position to lead the industry.”
Scottish Renewables Director of Policy Jenny Hogan added:
“With more than 11GW of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy projects in the pipeline by 2020, a streamlined and efficient process for securing planning consent is crucial to making these plans a reality, and creating a lynchpin for Scotland’s next industrial revolution.
This report’s recommendations will build upon the concerted effort made by industry, government and regulators to move these projects closer to deployment, and ultimately deliver clean, safe and secure electricity from around our shores to homes and businesses across Scotland.”
With the findings of this report and the anticipated publication of the Scottish Government’s Agri-Renewables Strategy later in the year it is hoped that 2012 can see the further acceleration of Scotland’s renewable energy capacity.