6. Action Plan
As outlined above, there are a number of actions which will need to be completed by regulators, developers and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the Plan and facilitate further offshore wind development in our seas.
6.1 Further seabed leasing for Scottish Waters
The UK Offshore Wind Sector Deal highlights the importance of regular future seabed leasing rounds for offshore wind development, which in turn is tied to the commitments regarding future CfD rounds.
The final Plan will provide the spatial framework for the first cycle of seabed leasing by Crown Estate Scotland (ScotWind).
Option and Lease Agreements for commercial-scale offshore wind farm development under the first cycle of ScotWind leasing should only be made for areas of seabed identified in the final Plan (i.e. final Plan Options).
The final Plan will be reviewed prior to any future seabed leasing rounds via the iterative plan review, to ensure it is a contemporary and accurate document.
Developers should consider and address the conclusions of the final Plan and Sustainability Appraisal reports when preparing leasing, consent and licence applications, as appropriate.
6.2 Formation of the Advisory Group
Upon adoption of the final Plan, an Advisory Group will be formed to discuss the knowledge gaps and issues identified in the Sustainability Appraisal. The Advisory Group will meet, as required to discuss these issues and to undertake the iterative plan review process on an annual basis. The Advisory Group will also support the review process and provide advice to the Governance Board as requested.
Further information about the role of the Advisory Group is provided at section 5.2 0.
6.3 Governance of Plan Implementation
Governance of the Plan implementation will be provided by the Project Board formed during the planning process. It will continue in its governance role for the duration of the Plan, taking into consideration the recommendations provided by the Advisory Group and the wider regulatory and policy context. The Project Board will be renamed the "Governance Board" and will provide recommendations to Scottish Ministers regarding future revisions to the Plan and further assessment. Decision making power regarding the Plan will rest with the Scottish Ministers.
6.4 Developing the evidence base - linking to the ScotMER Research Programme and other strategic research programmes
The planning process has been informed by extensive technical planning work and stakeholder engagement. The evidence gathered has been used to inform the Opportunity and Constraint model and to inform the assessment in the SA and the baseline data presented in the draft RLG.
The planning process and SA have identified potential gaps in knowledge and data which may need to be addressed at plan and/or project-level. For example, via the completion of regional-level ornithology surveys and research in the East region or an update to the existing guidance regarding collision risk assessment for migratory bird species. In addition, scientific advisors have concluded that existing evidence relating to marine mammal abundance and distribution in the DPO regions needs to be collated and reviewed, to support future planning and assessment and identify any future priorities for research in these regions.
The Governance Board and Advisory Group will provide strategic oversight and advice on how to bridge any data or knowledge gaps identified in the assessments, or any emerging evidence gaps, in order to inform the iterative plan review process.
A number of strategic research programmes already exist and are undertaking work to address these gaps. Further, project-level assessment and monitoring may provide data and evidence which can address these gaps. As this evidence becomes available, it is anticipated that it will inform future plan and project-level assessment accordingly.
Following adoption of the final Plan it is anticipated that these strategic research programmes will seek to address the identified and emerging evidence gaps, in order to facilitate future offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters. A summary of these strategic research programmes follows and further information is also provided in the HRA report.
The ScotMER programme has been established to improve the understanding and assessment of the environmental and socio-economic implications of offshore renewable energy developments. Whilst our understanding of our marine ecosystem and the impacts of climate change is increasing, there are still knowledge gaps and data limitations that remain which result in uncertainty in current environmental baselines. ScotMER involves collaboration from industry, environmental NGOs, SNCBs and other interested stakeholders to identify and address high priority research gaps and builds on previous work undertaken by the Scottish Offshore Renewables Research Framework.
The following seven specialist ScotMER groups have been established to identify and prioritise evidence gaps which are detailed in 'evidence maps'. These maps are then used to inform the supporting research framework:
- Marine mammals;
- Fish and fisheries;
- Diadromous fish;
- Physical processes; and
The evidence maps provide a clear indication of the priorities, shared across stakeholders, for each receptor and drive ongoing and future research programmes. These evidence maps are reviewed regularly to stay current with emerging research and policy priorities. Further, it facilitates a joint working approach with other UK and international groups with an interest in renewables and seeks to develop and maintain an understanding of the research landscape at Scottish, national and international levels.
As research which addresses these knowledge gaps progresses, it will provide evidence to inform further project-level assessment, as well providing invaluable input into the iterative plan review process.
Further detail regarding linkages to the ScotMER research programme and specific knowledge gaps relating to the potential effects of offshore wind farm developments on seabirds is provided in the HRA report.
Licence and consent conditions for individual projects require participation in the ScotMER programme (according to the impacts of the individual project) and the relevant Regional Advisory Group ("RAG"), to ensure that outcomes from project-specific monitoring effort informs strategic research work and can contribute to the iterative plan review process.
In addition to ScotMER, a number of other collaborative research initiatives exist, whose outputs will inform the iterative plan review process, including (but not limited to);
- Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme for Offshore Wind;
- The Marine Mammal Scientific Support Research Programme (managed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit);
- Joint Cetacean Protocol;
- The Co-Ordinated Agenda for Marine, Environmental and Rural Affairs Science; and
- The Scottish Marine Renewables Research Group.
6.5 Grid infrastructure and connectivity
Further examination of grid infrastructure and connectivity, in light of the potential additional capacity to be delivered by the Plan, will be required. Current infrastructure and available capacity for the short-term emphasises that whilst Scotland's potential resource is significant, there are still obstacles that will need to be addressed in order to ensure that development in Scotland can be viable and competitive, especially in more remote regions. Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult ("ORE Catapult") are currently engaged in an examination of these grid infrastructure and connectivity issues and possible solutions, including the use of novel technologies and approaches. The results of this study will inform the iterative plan review process and any future revisions to the Plan and will be considered in any future assessments (as appropriate).
6.6 Relationship with the National Marine Plan and emerging Regional Marine Plans
The strategic aims of the Plan align with those of the National Marine Plan (2015), which addresses interactions between renewable energy development and other marine users. Development within any of the DPOs will need to take account of the National Marine Plan.
Draft Regional Locational Guidance has been prepared as part of the Plan process, to support further project-level spatial planning within DPOs and this guidance should be consulted by developers and regulators.
Regional Marine Plans will be prepared by Marine Planning Partnerships within the eleven Scottish Marine Regions (extending out to 12 nautical miles). Regional marine plans must be prepared in accordance with the National Marine Plan (unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise). Marine Planning Partnerships will be required to take into account this Plan, once adopted, when preparing their Regional Marine Plans.
Regional level analysis and assessment will address the gap between strategic and project level assessment and these regional-scale assessments will be considered by the Advisory Group and Governance Board as part of the iterative plan review process.