Draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Renewable Energy in Scottish Waters: Socio - Economic Assesment

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 Scotti

B12. Telecom Cables

B12.1 Overview

This sector relates to fibre optic submarine telecommunication cables, which carry telephone calls, internet connections and data as part of national and international data transfer networks utilised for the majority of international communication transmissions. Figure B12 shows an overview of existing telecom cables in relation to Draft Plan Option areas. Information sources used in the assessment are listed in Table B12.1.

Table B12.1 Information Sources


Information Available




All pipelines and cables


SeaZone Solutions Ltd


Power cables (submarine electricity cables)


Baxter et al. (2011)


Potential future subsea cable developments / reinforcements


National Planning Framework for Scotland Annex National development 11 (Scottish Government, 2009b)

B12.2 Future Trends

According to the UK Cable Protection Committee ( UKCPC, now Subsea Cables UK) around 95% of international trans-ocean traffic is carried by cable, hence, submarine cables will be vital for the foreseeable future (Baxter et al, 2011). However, there is little information available on how this sector may change in the future (Saunders et al, 2011). According to UKMMAS (2010), changes in bandwidth and the development of high speed internet as well as continued growth in the sector are using up the spare capacity in the current telecommunication networks. The further development of more resilient networks requires a greater reliance on a number of submarine cable routes rather than a few, and major domestic and international systems are now being installed. Future developments in telecom cables are likely to focus on upgrading and increasing the capacity of existing cables along the same routes that are currently present ( ABPmer, RPA & SQW, 2011). The extent to which new cables will be laid in Scottish waters is not known (Baxter et al, 2011).

Potential for Interaction

Table B12.2 shows potential interaction pathways between telecom cables and wind, wave and/or tidal arrays.

Explanation of column content:

Column 1: Describes the potential interaction between the activity and any renewable technology;

Column 2: Identifies the types of offshore renewable development (wind, wave or tidal) for which the interaction may arise;

Column 3: Identifies the potential socio-economic consequence associated with the interaction identified in Column 1;

Column 4: Indicates whether detailed assessment will or will not be required if activity is scoped in;

Column 5: Identifies how the socio-economic impact will be assessed.

Table B12.2 Potential for Interaction






Potential Interaction

Technology Relevance (Wind, Wave, Tidal)

Potential Socio-economic Consequence

Scoped in (√) or Out (X) of Assessment

How the Economic Impact Will be Assessed

Competition for space

All arrays, export cables

Increased costs associated with new cable laying operations

- only where Draft Plan Option areas or export cable routes intersect future telecom cables routes

- Consultation with industry to determine any potential developments for which cable routes might require extension or for which cable crossings might be required;

- Assessment of cost based on average cost per km for relaying or cable crossings based on ODIS/ data.

See Section B12.4 for detailed methodology

Cable crossings

All arrays, export cables

Additional costs to construct cable crossings

X - costs of crossings will be borne by developer.

Not required.

Increased difficulty of access at crossing points

All arrays, export cables

Increased maintenance costs for cable owners; loss of revenue for asset owners; loss of revenue for dependent businesses/customers

X - the crossing agreements will generally make offshore energy developers liable for additional costs incurred by the existing asset owner. This essentially involves a transfer of the cost to the developer and therefore does not require assessment here. Consultation will be undertaken with relevant asset owners to identify any significant concerns.

Not required.

Qualitative assessment of potential issues undertaken (see Section B12.4)

B12.4 Scoping Methodology

Wind, wave and tidal array development in Draft Plan Option areas, and export cable corridors from Draft Plan Option areas have the potential to affect future subsea telecommunication cable routes, or extensions, resulting in increased costs associated with additional cable laying distance to deviate around Draft Plan Option areas or export cable corridor.

For the purpose of this assessment, this potential negative effect was only considered to be likely where Draft Plan Option areas or export cable corridors intersected with current telecom cable routes which would require replacement or extensions prior to 2035, or future telecom cable routes that were likely to be constructed after agreements to lease had been issued in relation to Draft Plan Option areas (assumed 2015) or after licence applications for cable routes had been submitted (assumed 2020). Using this assumption:

  • Draft Plan Option areas and/or cable corridors which were not intersected by future telecom cable extensions / routes were scoped out of the assessment; and
  • Draft Plan Option areas and/or cable corridors which were intersected by future telecom cable extensions / routes were considered to require a quantitative impact assessment.

To aid industry consultation and highlight the potential for future interactions, the existing subsea telecom cables which intersect with the proposed Draft Plan Option areas and/or Draft Plan Option areas export cable corridors were identified and are shown in Table B12.3.

Table B12.3 Current Telecom Cables which Intersect with Proposed Draft Plan Option Areas and/or Export Cable Corridors



Draft Plan Option Areas

Cable(s) Intersected

Wind Draft Plan Option areas




Wind cable corridors



Farice(2), Northern Lights


Atlantic Crossing 1 ( AC1) SegA; Shefa-2 Seg 8' TAT14



CNS Fibre Optic

Wave Draft Plan Option areas



Northern Lights


Shefa-2 seg 7-3; TAT 14

Wave cable corridors



Farice(2); Northern Lights


Atlantic Crossing 1 ( AC1) Seg. A; Shefa-2 Seg 8; TAT 14; Shefa-2 Seg 7-3

Tidal Draft Plan Option areas



Hibernia A

Tidal cable corridor



Farice(2); Northern Lights


Atlantic Crossing 1 ( AC1) Seg A; Shefa-2 Seg 8; TAT 14



Hibernia A; Lanisd 3; Sirius North

(Source: Kingfisher, 2013)

B12.5 Assessment Methodology

B12.5.1 Increased Competition for Space

In order to identify SORER regions and specific Draft Plan Option areas and/or cable corridors in which this negative interaction was likely to occur, based on any existing cables which may require extensions, or new telecom cables that will be laid before 2035, industry consultation was undertaken.

Where industry consultation identified an interaction (intersection) with a Draft Plan Option area, the additional miles required for the future cable extension/route to deviate around Draft Plan Option areas of concern was estimated. Using the average cost per km for cable laying ( ODIS, 2011), the cost impact to the sector was the calculated as follows:

Length of deviation (km) x average cost cable laying per km (£/km)

It was assumed that the length of deviation around wave or tidal Draft Plan Option areas may be smaller compared to deviations around wind Draft Plan Option areas due to the lower proportion of Draft Plan Option areas that would be covered by those devices.

The assessment has assumed constant prices in real terms based on 2012.

Given the current uncertainty surrounding the routes of the Draft Plan Option area export cable corridors, any assessment of the economic impacts of interactions between future cable replacements/extensions and cable corridors is difficult. As such, only a qualitative assessment of this issue was undertaken based on the output of the scoping phase and areas of concern highlighted by consultation with industry.

B12.5.2 Increased Difficulty of Access at Crossing Points

Table B12.3 shows that some of the proposed Draft Plan Option areas' export cable corridors intersect with existing telecom cables. While this does not pose any major issues during the construction phase (and it has been assumed that the cost of the cable crossing will be transferred to the developer), the general proliferation of cables in the marine environment may increase the costs of maintaining existing cables in the future ( ABPmer et al. 2011).

A qualitative assessment of this issue was undertaken based on any areas of concern highlighted through consultation with the industry sector.


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