A blueprint to streamline the scoping, planning and consenting of offshore renewables developments has been published by the Scottish Government today.
The report, prepared by a task force comprising Marine Scotland, environmental regulators, renewable developers and The Crown Estate, was welcomed by Alex Salmond as he co-chaired the first 2012 meeting of the Scottish Energy Advisory Board (SEAB).
The task force recommendations include:
* Creating a national database of survey data, with information from DECC, The Crown Estate and, at the appropriate time, developers - to reduce duplication and minimise cost and time
* Introducing common standards in data collection and assessment to ensure developers can use methodologies consistently and with confidence
* Using mandatory multilateral consultation to engage other sea users (fisheries, shipping, recreational users, communities, etc) at the earliest opportunity, before applications
* Increasing resources in Marine Scotland (on cost-recovery basis) to provide required environment specialists for efficient scoping and application processes
* Prioritising early work to identify potential sites for new test facilities, including deep water offshore wind technologies
These will now be taken forward by Marine Scotland, SNH and other regulatory/advisory bodies. They build on MS’s existing work, including the creation of a ‘one-stop-shop’ to reduce the number of statutory/advisory bodies to be contacted during licensing, and the publication of a marine renewables licensing manual, currently undergoing review and to be expanded to include offshore wind energy development.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, said: "The Scottish Government and our agencies are determined to build a strong, sustainable and world-leading offshore renewables industry, bringing jobs and investment to communities 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 and efficiently 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 task force was co-chaired, along with Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, by Professor Russel Griggs, who is also chairman of the Regulatory Review Group, the body which independently advises the Scottish Government on issues of regulations.
Prof Griggs said: "I was delighted to work with the Energy Minister in this important area of policy. The recommendations set out in this report will lead to improvements and efficiencies in the way in which offshore renewable energy projects in Scotland are developed, planned and consented. Encouraging confidence and support across local communities and other interested parties in the offshore renewables projects being developed in Scotland."
WWF Scotland director, Dr Richard Dixon, said: “Alongside energy saving measures, offshore renewables will have a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce climate emissions as we phase out polluting fossil fuels and nuclear power.
“Given the huge renewable energy potential around our coast, and the strong skills in offshore engineering, marine energy offers a fantastic opportunity for Scotland to create jobs and build a zero-carbon economy.
"We need to make sure we get the right renewables in the right places. The recommendations from the task force are very helpful in making sure the government and industry bring together all the available information on the marine environment, and engage early with stakeholders, to make the best possible decisions.
“With careful planning we can harness Scotland's wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions while safeguarding the nation's tremendous marine environment."
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."