The Scottish Government ( SG) has set a range of challenging targets for renewable energy which recognise the potential to take advantage of the extensive offshore renewable energy resources (offshore wind, wave and tidal power) available in Scottish waters and include meeting at least 30% of its total energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. To assist in meeting these targets, SG has adopted a process of sectoral marine planning to identify potential locations where commercial scale offshore renewable energy could be developed.
A series of Draft Plan Option areas for future offshore wind, wave and tidal energy development have been developed by Marine Scotland which are now subject to a 'Sustainability Appraisal' involving:
- Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA);
- Habitats Regulations Appraisal ( HRA); and
- Socio-economic Assessment.
Together, these assessments will take account of strategic social, economic and environmental considerations as well as assessing the potential effects of the Draft Plan Options of species and habitats protected by European legislation (Natura 2000).
The study reported here provides a high level socio-economic appraisal of the potential costs and benefits to activities  that may arise as a result of offshore wind, wave or tidal development within the Draft Plan Options as part of possible future Scottish Government plans for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy. The socio-economic assessment will contribute to informing Scottish Ministers' decisions on the content of these future energy plans.
Aims and Objectives
The aims of this study were:
- To ascertain the extent to which activities already take place in areas identified as potential plan options for offshore renewables (offshore wind, wave and tidal);
- To explore how those activities may be affected by the development of offshore renewables in the plan option areas; and
- To estimate the potential economic and social consequences arising from any potential interactions.
In the context of this project, 'social impacts' are defined as distributional impacts i.e. the impact of the sets of plan options on different groups in Scotland. This includes impacts on specific locations (including individual settlements, where feasible within the scope of the project and data availability) and on specific groups within Scotland's population (including but not limited to different age groups, genders, minority groups, and parts of Scotland's income distribution).
In order to achieve these aims, the following objectives have been addressed under this study:
- Identify activities (those taking place in marine waters or on the immediate foreshore) that currently make use of or are currently projected to make use of the marine space identified as potential plan options for offshore renewables;
- Establish the intensity and value of activities taking place in plan option areas, using spatial mapping where appropriate, whilst identifying any spatial variations in intensity of use across areas;
- Establish whether and how these activities might be affected by development of offshore renewables in plan options; and
- Estimate the potential economic and social costs and benefits
associated with offshore renewables being developed in the areas
- The potential costs associated with the impacts of the plan options on other marine activities;
- The potential benefits associated with the impacts of the plan options on other marine activities;
- The potential social impacts, both positive and negative, associated with the plan options;
- The potential distribution of costs and benefits between marine activities, and between the offshore renewable energy regions.
The scope of the study has been limited to considering the costs and benefits to activities associated with potential future offshore renewables development proposed within offshore wind, wave or tidal development plans. It does not consider the potential benefits to the offshore renewables industry or to wider society associated with such development. Furthermore, while the study has sought to estimate both potential benefits and costs to relevant activities, it should be noted that supply chain benefits (such as benefits to the ports sector associated with manufacturing or operation and maintenance facilities to support offshore renewables) are excluded from the assessment owing to particular methodological challenges in seeking to assess these. These benefits will be taken into account by Scottish ministers in making decisions on offshore energy plans.
The study has been overseen by a Project Steering Group ( PSG) comprising officials from within SG supported by guidance and advice from the Project Advisory Group ( PAG), which comprised representatives of key stakeholder groups.