1 Introduction and Background
1.1 The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring secure, reliable and affordable energy supplies within the context of long-term decarbonisation of energy generation. Continued growth of the renewable energy sector in Scotland is an essential feature of the future clean energy system and a potential key driver of economic growth.
1.2 The Scottish Government has set a range of targets and ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to generate more energy from renewable sources. The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 commits the Scottish Government to reach net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. It also sets out interim targets to cut emissions by 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040, against the 1990 baseline. Additionally, the Scottish Government has set a target to generate 50% of Scotland's overall energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030.
1.3 Around Scotland, there exists the potential to extract significant energy resources in the form of offshore wind energy generation. Any expansion of offshore wind energy generation in Scottish waters requires the application of marine spatial planning, at a national, regional and local scale, to identify areas that may be suitable for the development of offshore wind projects.
1.4 Offshore wind is a large-scale technology with the potential to play a pivotal role in Scotland's energy system over the coming decades. The development of technologies such as floating wind, which offer scope for development in deeper water, have significant potential to contribute offshore wind energy supply at increasingly affordable prices. Floating technology is particularly well suited to the deeper water abundant around Scotland and in the vicinity of oil and gas infrastructure.
1.5 The UK Government's Industrial Strategy rightly points to the achievements of the offshore wind industry, and the potential that it represents. The Offshore Wind Sector Deal (2019) celebrated these achievements and set numerous targets for the sector including an aim to generate 30GW by 2030. This has since been increased to 40GW by 2030. Our own Offshore Wind Policy Statement confirms the Scottish Government's intent to see offshore wind play a key role in decarbonisation and our net zero commitment and suggests as much as 11GW could be delivered by 2030 in Scottish waters alone.
1.6 To facilitate the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters, the Scottish Government has introduced a system of sectoral marine planning. This planning exercise brings together the related planning, Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Habitats Regulation Appraisal (HRA) and Socio and Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA), as well as statutory consultation processes into one integrated process. The output of the process is a Sectoral Marine Plan ("SMP") containing the Scottish Ministers' 'Plan Options' ("PO") for the sustainable development of commercial scale offshore renewable energy.
1.7 In October 2020, the Scottish Government published the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy (SMP-OWE). The SMP-OWE identified 15 Plan Options (POs) around Scotland's marine zone. Within these Options, the Sustainability Appraisal assessed a potential impact of up to 10GW. These Plan Options now form the spatial component of the seabed leasing process, ScotWind, managed by Crown Estate Scotland ("CES"). Across these Options, CES has managed an application process to award Option Agreements which set out the terms on which CES would grant a lease for an area of seabed if the developer succeeds in obtaining all the necessary consents. In January 2022, Crown Estate Scotland announced that 17 projects have been offered Option Agreements through the ScotWind Leasing round.
1.8 The SMP-OWE (2020) further identified a possible need to re-examine the planning process to allow more targeted projects to progress with the specific focus of seeking to electrify oil and gas infrastructure. In addition, in the context of the growing blue economy and need for sustainable management of the marine environment, the SMP-OWE 2020 set a commercial scale minimum size at 100MW. Accordingly, smaller innovation scale projects (i.e. those below 100MW) are not accounted for in the 2020 Plan nor do they have a route to a seabed lease. The Scottish Government is now developing a Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind Energy for Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas Decarbonisation (INTOG), which encompasses spatial opportunities and the strategic framework for future offshore wind deployment in sustainable and suitable locations that will help deliver projects to meet the above goal and our wider net zero commitments.
1.9 As this planning process is specifically targeting oil and gas decarbonisation, it will provide unique opportunities to further deliver a Just Transition and assist the oil and gas sector in meeting the commitments of the North Sea Transition Deal.
1.10 Furthermore, the Scottish Government has recently published the Hydrogen Action Plan, which follows the Hydrogen Policy Statement in setting out actions to help delivery and scaling up of the hydrogen opportunity in Scotland. Green Hydrogen, a core component of the action plan, relies on renewable energy and it is envisaged that offshore wind can play a significant role in green hydrogen development. Whilst not a core component of this Planning framework, offshore wind projects looking to progress under this Plan may consider hydrogen production as a viable use for excess generation capacity.
1.11 This document, the Initial Plan Framework (IPF), follows the Plan Specification and Context Report and the linked consultation. The IPF now outlines the set planning framework and the areas of seabed that will form the spatial footprint for the CES leasing process (Section 3). It also describes the next stages in the planning process as that relates to Scottish Government responsibilities as the responsible marine planning authority (Section 5). An analysis of the consultation responses and changes made is also provided (see Section 7).
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