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

Discussion and Conclusions

The socio-economic assessment provides a broad overview of indicative cost impacts to other activities associated with potential offshore wind, wave and tidal development within the Draft Plan Option areas. The estimated costs impacts ( PV) ranged from £6.8m (Low Scenario: 3 GW offshore wind; 0.5 GW wave; 0.5 GW tidal) to £154m (High Scenario: 15 GW offshore wind; 2.5 GW wave; 2.5 GW tidal). In addition estimated GVA impacts to the commercial fisheries sector ranged from £1.4m to £7.0m PV across the scenarios.

The quantified potential cost impacts to commercial shipping accounted for around 70-90% of total quantified costs depending on scenario. Most of the quantified potential cost impacts relate to either reductions in revenues (for example, reduced tourism or recreational angling expenditure) or increased fuel costs (shipping and recreational boating). Some potential one-off costs have been identified for the CCS sector associated with the need to construct additional cable crossings where a possible future pipeline crossed future offshore wind farm export cables in the North East SORER. The commercial fisheries costs relate to estimated impacts to GVA as a result of potential reductions in fish landings.

For the majority of activities, no significant cost impacts were identified under any of the scenarios including aquaculture, energy generation, oil and gas, ports and harbours, power interconnectors, telecom cables, waste disposal and the majority of water sports. However, for some sectors, some uncertainty remained concerning potential impacts.

Most of the potential social impacts identified are limited to localised effects associated with potential impacts to the commercial fisheries sector but these are generally expected to be small. There may be some impacts on recreational boaters, sea kayakers and sea anglers that could require them to change the location of their activities. This could affect marinas, boat charters, boat maintenance businesses, etc. with knock-on employment effects. However, the impacts on one marina are likely to be compensated by benefits for others. As a result, the overall impacts should balance out. The social issue then depends on whether the benefits move from areas that are more (or less) deprived such that they could have a distributional effect. However, the magnitude of the impacts is unlikely to be significant enough to result in closure of a marina (or associated businesses) such that the distributional effects should be limited. It is unlikely that any specific disadvantaged groups or minorities would be affected to a greater extent than average.

No significant benefits to activities could be quantified in this study, although it is noted that a number of activities such as ports & harbours, shipping and tourism would benefit from the development of the supply chain associated with expenditure on offshore renewables development, but this was out with the scope of the study.

By far the majority of impacts are associated with potential development within offshore wind Draft Plan Option areas, with much lower levels of impact associated with potential development within wave or tidal Draft Plan Option areas. This reflects the much greater spatial footprint and visual presence of offshore wind arrays compared to wave and tidal arrays. The combined impacts of offshore wind, wave and tidal development have therefore been assessed as being broadly similar to the impacts of offshore wind on its own, given that offshore wind accounts for the majority of overall impact.

Knock-on effects on GVA and employment are generally estimated to be insignificant, with few of the costs exceeding the 5% of turnover threshold used as the minimum value for estimating these impacts [5] . The only sector that exceeds the 5% threshold is commercial fishing and then only in North and West regions (low and central scenarios), and North, North East, West and North West regions (high scenario). In all cases, this is associated with wind, although the threshold is exceeded in North region for tidal (high scenario). The main estimated impacts on GVA and employment are as follows:

  • Type I (direct and indirect) to Type II (direct, indirect and induced) effect on GVA:
    • North: £6.9 to £7.5 million (£6.7 to £7.3 million ( PV) wind and £0.13 to £0.14 million tidal);
    • North East: £1.0 to £1.1 million ( PV);
    • West: £1.0 to £1.1 million ( PV); and
    • North West: £1.0 to £1.1 million ( PV).
  • Type 1 (direct and indirect) to Type II (direct, indirect and induced) effect on employment:
    • North: 9.4 to 10.4 jobs (9.2 to 10.4 jobs wind and 0.2 to 0.2 jobs tidal);
    • North East: 1.4 to 1.5 jobs;
    • West: 1.4 to 1.6 jobs; and
    • North West: 1.4 to 1.5 jobs.

This shows that the most significant effects are likely to be in North region, but these are still relatively minor. There might be localised effects that are greater in impact than the numbers suggest, for example, if crofters in North region are affected more significantly than full-time fishermen or if most of the impacts fall onto fishermen from the same harbours, or where impacts fall on areas that are heavily dependent on fisheries.

Study Limitations

There is currently a high level of uncertainty surrounding the location and intensity of possible future offshore renewables development within the Draft Plan Option areas. The study has sought to use assumptions about the density and location of development within the Draft Plan Option areas to inform the scenarios to address this, for example, it is assumed that the notional installed capacities for offshore wind, wave and tidal development identified in the scenarios are apportioned pro rata across the Draft Plan Option areas in proportion to the size of each Draft Plan Option area. In reality it is likely that development will be more intensive in some Draft Plan Option areas than in others leading to variable levels of socio-economic impact within each Draft Plan Option area.

The timing of any development within the Draft Plan Option areas is also uncertain. In this study we have made a simplistic assumption that all development starts in 2023 and is completed by 2025. However, should development proceed within the Draft Plan Option areas this is likely to be staggered in the period 2018 to 2030. While the study assumption is likely to give PV estimates that reflect a national average of development spread over the period 2018 to 2030, it is possible that cost impacts could vary at regional level should development proceed earlier or later than assumed in this assessment. A sensitivity analysis undertaken on the timing of development indicated that if all developments became operational five years earlier ( i.e. by 2020) this would increase cost/ GVA impacts by around 19% (based on an assessment period ending ten years after full operation ( i.e. 2030). Conversely, a delay of five years would reduce cost/ GVA impacts by around 16% (based on an assessment period ending ten years after full operation ( i.e. 2040)).

The nature and scale of socio-economic impacts is particularly dependent on the precise locations in which offshore renewables development may occur within individual Draft Plan Option areas. This study has assumed that spatial planning within Draft Plan Option areas can be used effectively to minimise socio-economic impacts, particularly where the density of development occupies less than 5% of a Draft Plan Option area. However, within individual Draft Plan Option areas it is possible that other constraints may limit flexibility in choice of the location for offshore renewables development, resulting in higher levels of socio-economic assessment.

Uncertainties in the location and nature of future activity in the marine environment also contribute to uncertainty in the estimation of costs and benefits. For example, potential CCS impacts are based on assumptions about a possible future requirement for a new CCS pipeline sometime in the 2020's. Similar uncertainties relate to future trends in ongoing activities such as commercial fishing (assumed landings values remain constant over the assessment period) and tourism (revenues assumed to be constant in real terms). Such assessments are therefore based on a significant degree of speculation about future levels of activity and are thus inherently uncertain.

There is also some uncertainty concerning the nature and scale of socio-economic impacts associated with offshore renewables development. This reflects uncertainty surrounding the details of the technologies to be deployed, the lack of scientific understanding relating to the impacts of novel technologies, and the lack of scientific understanding of some specific environmental pressures and impact pathways ( e.g. the scale of collision mortality and the effects of electromagnetic fields). The study has sought to accommodate these uncertainties in the assessment where possible, for example in relation to the differential impacts of tidal turbine foundation design on navigation interests. However, some uncertainty remains concerning some aspects of the impacts of offshore renewables and it is important that such issues are managed through the process of plan implementation by ensuring that newly acquired evidence on impacts is used to refine the plans.

It has not been possible to quantify social impacts, other than access to employment where multipliers have been used. Other impacts have been assessed qualitatively, which can result in homogenisation of impacts although it does mean that all impacts are considered throughout the assessment. The social impacts are generally assessed as knock-on impacts from the direct effects on activities. This means that areas such as employment, environment and health have been included to a greater extent than the much more indirect effects on crime or education. Again, these indirect effects may become more evident in a specific local assessment.

The combined assessment poses particular challenges owing to the complexity of such assessments and the limited scientific understanding of impacts. Within this study, combined effects (the combined impact of potential offshore wind, wave and tidal development within the Draft Plan Option areas) have generally been assessed as the sum of the individual impacts of offshore wind, wave and tidal development. This has been based on the generally minor contribution to overall assessed impacts arising from wave and tidal development and the modest overall scale of impacts.


Back to top