Tidal Technologies: Key issues across planning and development for environmental regulators

June 2011


Background to the research

The development and deployment of wave and tidal energy in Scottish waters has urgency and high government priority as an important element for national energy security and the mitigation of the effects of climate change. The industry technologies and the regulatory frameworks within which they work are under development.

Objectives of research

The purpose of this research was to clarify the objectives, roles, responsibilities and opportunities for engagement of the UK environment agencies for planning and development of tidal technologies. The issues accompanying the start up of the marine renewables industry have been examined through a case study of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) area in Scotland which is at the forefront of research, development and regulation in the sector. A key contribution to this research has been the stakeholder workshop held in Inverness in February 2011.

Key findings and recommendations

The report examines the targets, technologies and areas of Scotland involved and the regime of incentives designed to help the industry. The greatest UK marine energy resource is centred in NW Scotland and the Northern Isles. Full scale trials are underway and seabed leases allocated to marine energy developers in the PFOW supported by a banded ROC (Renewables Obligation Certificate) regime. Significant deployment of devices will build up from about 2015 with the aspiration to have installed 1.6GW of capacity by 2020, as an element of the target to supply 80% of Scotland’s power from renewables.

Potential environmental impacts arising from the generation of power using wave and tidal devices are considered, drawing together evidence from previous reviews, modelling studies, information on the functioning of physical and ecological processes in marine environments, and experience from other marine industries such as offshore wind and oil and gas. This review identifies some key environmental issues for further consideration by the regulators:

Further work is required to address these and many will require systemic modelling of hydrodynamics coupled with ecological processes to develop the predictive capacity necessary to guide the regulation of the future development of marine renewables.

A further challenge for the emerging marine renewable energy industry is to identify and secure local and community benefits to offset disturbance to the environment and existing activities in marine space. Engaging with local communities and embracing localism is a key task. As part of this task it is necessary to establish processes and structures which monitor and analyse the ongoing responses (human and environmental) to the new industry and adapt plans and practices where needed. Further work should include:

The stakeholder workshop held in Inverness in February 2011 revealed stakeholder concerns and uncertainty as significant new controls are introduced to marine space once held in common. The agreement by Crown Estate to lease large areas of seabed to marine energy developers in the PFOW has run well ahead of the emerging Marine Spatial Planning process and has therefore preceded the proposed formal consultation and stakeholder engagement requirements. Recommendations included:

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at £20.00 + VAT or hard copy at £15.00, less 20% to FWR members.

N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website