The Crown Estate has today published the second annual report for the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, in partnership with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
At a time when the UK’s offshore energy landscape is at an important moment of transition, the report offers a summary of a breakthrough year for the programme; a unique initiative that enables the gathering of data and evidence for the development of offshore wind in the UK in a manner that is sustainable, delivering positive outcomes for coastal communities and marine wildlife.
A £50 million investment by The Crown Estate, the programme brings together a 27-member steering group, spanning government, industry and non-profit organisations to collaborate in innovative research as well as collating and sharing existing information that will help speed up the consenting process, protect wildlife and fishing, while promoting greater biodiversity across the UK. The programme plays a role in unlocking the potential of the seabed to help the UK tackle the challenges of climate change and energy security while supporting a thriving marine environment.
Key highlights of the year, covered in the report, include:
- A doubling of investment in the programme – A commitment by The Crown Estate to invest a further £25m, bringing the total amount committed to the programme to £50m over six years.
- Initial conclusion of projects – Six projects were completed during 2022, the first to have done so since the programme formally began in 2021.
- Further projects invested in – following a further call for submissions, a total of 15 new projects received a total of £14m worth of investment, bringing the total number of projects supported by the programme to 27. These are worth nearly £30m, including partner contributions of over £10m
- Review and updating the focus of the programme to deliver for the potential challenges of floating wind, coordinated transmission and to align with the Environmental Improvement Package of the British Energy Security Strategy
The report draws out examples of the vital collaboration with stakeholders across the offshore wind industry taking place across the programme, from nature conservation bodies such as the RSPB and Natural England, to marine planning bodies from across all four nations and the developer community. The report goes on to detail projects that study a diverse range of topics, from bird migration through to cables on the seabed.
Gus Jaspert, Managing Director, Marine at The Crown Estate said:
“The seabed is getting busier with each passing year, and the need to ensure a thriving marine environment is becoming ever more complex. The importance of securing the UK’s energy security and path to net zero, while tackling crises of climate and biodiversity loss, has never been greater. The Crown Estate’s role as long-term stewards of the seabed means we are committed to best practice management that will accelerate renewables alongside a wide range of other interests.
“In that context, the £50 million Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme is a vital pillar in driving collaboration to ensure the responsible and sustainable management of our seabed in lockstep with the development of offshore wind.
“In 2022 we have seen a fantastic array of projects beginning, concluding, and developing that will add to our understanding for years to come – this report goes some way to shining a light on the huge amount of work that’s taken place. A huge congratulations and thanks to all of our programme partners on their work to date, and we look forward to a successful 2023.”
Speaking on the value the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme brings to the marine environment, Katie-Jo Luxton, Global Conservation Director at RSPB, one of the programme’s steering group member organisations, said:
“Deploying more offshore wind farms is key to decarbonising our energy systems but in our rush to tackle climate change, we must not further damage our precious marine environment. The OWEC Programme is an essential investment in developing a shared evidence base, so we can all understand the impacts of wind farms on marine wildlife and ecosystems, including the UK’s globally important seabird populations that are struggling in the face of increased pressures on our seas. The OWEC Programme and the dialogue it has created between different interests enables us to search for ways, together, in which damage can be avoided and opportunities for restoration can be identified.”
As the programme develops, results from projects will be published on The Crown Estate’s Marine Data Exchange (https://www.marinedataexchange.co.uk/), the world’s largest database of offshore renewables survey data, research and evidence.
To read the full report, visit https://www.thecrownestate.co.uk/media/4334/owec-annual-report-2022.pdf