Who are the offshore stakeholders?
· Published on August 14, 2018
Renewable Energy Troubleshooter – Supporting and informing the global transition
The fast approaching deadline for submissions to the Scottish Crown Estate’s consultation on a potential offshore wind leasing round\; have-your-say-on-offshore-wind-leasing, seeks comments from those likely to be referred to as ‘offshore stakeholders.’ It prompted me to ask the deceptively obvious question – who are the offshore stakeholders?
To those outside of the industry the term ‘offshore stakeholder’ may seem a strange concept, but wind farms take up vast amounts of sea and seabed which inevitably impacts those who use it. The Islay offshore wind farm, a 690 MW scheme I project managed came in at whopping 131 sq. km with some projects coming in at the equivalent size of a UK county.
‘Stakeholders’ are a non-homogeneous body and are not the same for each project. They take two forms, statutory and non- statutory, covering existing sea users as the Ministry of Defence and oil and gas groups, fisheries interests and local communities – through to nationally designated environmental ones such as Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).
Statutory stakeholders are legally bound to protect their remit, even if privately unconcerned, and an objection not removed from them can prove grievous for a project. Non-statutory stakeholder also feed in, but an objection may be expected to be addressed by the developer via careful design changes and through mitigation. This category may include a myriad of groups, communities slightly further removed from the project, and also those representing specific interests.
The seabed owner for UK waters is The Crown Estate, known as ‘TCE, ‘and now with separate offices in London and Edinburgh. Their stakeholder role is multi-faceted as reflecting involvement from the outset as shown in the call for engagement above. They feed into the process via carefully designed key performance indicators and milestones to ensure developer commitment and enables TCE to track projects in a hand– on and effective manner. This interface offers the industry a ‘one stop shop’ relating to the option and leases and a welcome relief for those of coming from an onshore wind background of dealing with landowners with varying interests and requiring co-ordination and alignment. The Crown Estate also acts as a permitting authority and assists with the various marine licences and co-ordination of maritime stakeholders to unlock bottlenecks.
Other stakeholders include the Environment Agency and the Scottish equivalent Sepa; the National Grid, MOD, aviation interests such as National Air Traffic Service (NATS), road and rail transport authorities, local councils, fisheries -where the appointment of a trust go -between or fisheries liaison officer can be helpful – and coastal communities. Some see threats, and others’ opportunities for large scale developments and a myriad of agreements may be required to keep the project moving forward.
As dialogue deepens, early survey results may become available and inform all both parties in drafting potential planning conditions in advance of any application ,and rather than reducing, this actually intensifies should consent is granted. An ‘implementation’ phase, during which the project can become rather invisible to such stakeholders as local communities, prepares the project for realisation and agreements codified as to how planning conditions are to be discharged. There may be years of collaboration ahead as actions are put in place and monitored.
So, the planning process, seemingly byzantine at times, has ensured that stakeholders, both statutory and non-statutory, are shaping offshore wind projects from the outset and from inception to decommissioning are more robust as a result. This sometimes-enforced relationship has worked in the UK and other countries throughout the world are watching – and following – the UK’s lead
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