Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework for Welsh Assembly Government

17.05.11

The Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework (MRESF) project, which has resulted in a groundbreaking and detailed ‘Approach to Sustainable Development’ for Welsh Territorial Waters, was formally launched at the Marine Energy Pembrokeshire Seminar by Jane Davidson on 14 March 2011.

The Marine Renewable Energy Strategic Framework (MRESF) was driven by a need for secure, diverse and sustainable energy supply, to reduce greenhouse gases and to contribute to climate change targets. The overall aim is to ensure that benchmark targets for energy generation are met in a manner which represents a truly sustainable approach, ensuring that economic and social objectives are realised whilst respecting environmental limits. To achieve this, integrated management of the marine environment is necessary and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) therefore commissioned RPS to develop a comprehensive, implementable, sustainable, transparent and defensible strategic framework for Welsh Territorial Waters. RPS’ Chepstow office led the three-year project including project management, GIS constraints analysis (including interactive webportal) and stakeholder engagement.

The project, which started in late 2007 and covered wind, wave, tidal and CO2 storage, was undertaken in three stages. The MRESF for Wales Stage 1 report was a desk-based exercise collating existing data and identifying data gaps. In Stage 2, a number of specific studies were commissioned to address some of the critical knowledge gaps identified in Stage 1 and included:

  • Assessment of Risk to Marine Mammals from Underwater Marine Renewable Devices in Welsh Waters: Desktop review (Phase 1) and studies of marine mammals in Welsh High Tide Waters (Phase 2);
  • Assessment of Risk to Diving Birds from Underwater Marine Renewable Devices in Welsh Waters: Desktop review (Phase 1) and field methodologies and site assessments (Phase 2);
  • Collision Risk of Fish with Wave and Tidal Devices;
  • The Potential for Interaction between Wave and Tidal Stream with Military Interests in Welsh Waters; and
  • Positive effects of wave and tidal energy devices. Literature review and desk study.

Stage 3 involved the development of the Strategic Framework. The work included stakeholder engagement (with two reports, the first issued for stakeholders in advance of the stakeholder engagement process and the second issued to collate comments made during the engagement process and to highlight how this input has been used), a review of the policy context as regards to sustainable development and an update to the Stage 1 work (presented as a Technical Addendum to Stage 3).

As well as a tool to guide governance, the MRESF (including interactive webportal) is available to marine renewable developers and stakeholders to inform site selection and the understanding of the strategic level environmental and socio-economic constraints associated with a site, and consequently the potential level of associated consenting risk. RPS is continuing to provide ongoing support to the Welsh Assembly Government and developers in order to assist with site selection of marine renewable devices and identification of environmental and socio-economic constraints that will need to be assessed as part of project specific Environmental Impact Assessments. The MRESF is a clear tool that is enabling WAG to promote sustainable marine renewable development in Welsh Territorial Waters.

Since the MRESF was published, Tidal Energy Limited’s 1.2MW tidal project has been consented in Ramsey Sound off Saint David’s Head and Marine Current Turbines have submitted their application for a 10MW tidal project in the Skerries, off Anglesey. Furthermore, Jane Davidson (Welsh Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing) has announced that the Welsh Assembly Government and The Crown Estate would jointly sign a letter of intent to work together to support marine energy manufacturing in Wales and to ensure that the deployment of marine energy devices will not be delayed by infrastructure requirements. These early but positive steps clearly demonstrate the promising future of sustainable marine energy in Wales.