UK Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment

Abstract: 

The UK Government developed a draft plan/programme for Offshore Energy in the UK. To analyse the environmental consequences a SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) has been undertaken. This practice elaborates on the SEA process.

Country: 
Year: 
2016
Application in MSP: 
Applied in a related process
Sectors: 
Offshore renewable energy production
Type of Issue: 
Environment aspects
Stakeholders
Type of practice: 
Study
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
No
Coherence with other processes: 
Strategic Environmental Assessment

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How has the process run around the Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) for offshore energy plans in the UK?
  • What alternative is recommended by the SEA concerning Offshore Energy developments?

Implementation Context

The UK Government developed a draft plan/programme for Offshore Energy in the UK. To analyse the environmental consequences a SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment) has been undertaken. Already a numerous amount of SEAS have been undertaken as part of the Offshore Energy programme before, such as:

  • The OESEA in January 2009. This report considered the environmental implications of a draft plan/programme to enable: further seaward rounds of oil and gas licensing, including gas storage in UK waters; and further rounds of offshore wind farm leasing in the UK Renewable Energy Zone (now Exclusive Economic Zone) and the territorial waters of England and Wales to a depth of 60m. 
  • The OESEA2 in February 2011, which built on a series of previous regional  scale SEAs undertaken by DECC and its forerunner departments since 1999. The OESEA2 Environmental Report considered the implications of a draft plan/programme for further licensing/leasing for offshore energy including oil and gas, gas storage including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and marine renewables (wind, wave and tidal technologies).

The current report (this practices) is an update of previous reports, integrating new research findings and stakeholders input.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Consider the environmental implications of DECC’s draft plan/programme to enable further licensing/leasing for offshore energy (oil and gas, hydrocarbon gas storage, carbon dioxide storage and marine renewables including wind, wave, tidal stream and tidal range). This includes consideration of the implications of alternatives to the plan/programme and consideration of potential interactions with other users of the sea
  • Inform the UK Government's decisions on the draft plan/programme
  • Provide routes for public and stakeholder participation in the process

Method

Since the last SEA report (OESEA2) The UK Department of Energy & Climate Change has maintained an active SEA research programme:

  • Identifying information gaps (some of which were outlined in the recommendations of previous SEA Environmental Reports)
  • Commissioning new research where appropriate
  • Promoting its wider dissemination through a series of research seminars. This has also involved continued engagement with the SEA Steering Group  (includes membership from  industry, Government, statutory advisors and environmental organisations including NGOs) and  review of the information base for the SEA.

In the developing phase the SEA considered the alternatives to the draft plan/programme and the potential environmental implications of the resultant activities in the context of:

  • The objectives of the draft plan/programme,
  • The SEA objectives,
  • The existing regulatory and other control mechanisms,
  • The wider policy and environmental protection objectives,
  • The current state of the environment and its likely evolution over time
  • Existing environmental problems.

In the SEA The following alternatives to the draft plan/programme for future offshore wind, wave and tidal  leasing, oil and gas licensing and carbon dioxide and gas storage have been assessed

  1. Not to offer any areas for leasing/licensing
  2. To proceed with a leasing and licensing programme
  3. To restrict the areas offered for leasing and licensing, temporally or spatially.

Main Outputs / Results

The report elorates on the process of the SEA. The conclusion of the SEA is that alternative 3 to the draft plan/programme is the preferred option, with the area offered restricted spatially through the exclusion of certain areas together with a number of mitigation measures to prevent, reduce and offset significant adverse impacts on the environment and other users of the sea. It is considered that the objectives of the draft plan/programme can be achieved through this option.

Furthermore it recommends that:

  • For the deployment of single devices and small arrays (likely in the lifetime of OESEA3), appropriate surveys of animal activity and behaviour should be undertaken to inform commercial scale projects.
  • That site specific assessments are undertaken before decisions can be taken on potential leasing and the desirability and acceptability of individual tidal range projects.
  • Future research should focus on a number of other data gaps identified.

Transferability

The report elaborates on the process of undertaking a SEA for Offshore Energy plans. Other European countries which have similar plans use similar processes. The process of deducting a SEA in the UK can be used as an inspiriting for other countries undertaking SEAs for Offshore Energy developments.

Costs / Funding Source

UK Government. The Department of Energy and Climate Change

Responsible Entity

UK Government

Offshore Energy SEA 3

Consultation

The Department of Energy and Climate Change

4th Floor Atholl House

86-88 Guild Street

Aberdeen AB11 6AR

oep@decc.gsi.gov.uk

01224 254015

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