Socio-economic Baseline Review Methodology and Data Gap Analysis for Offshore Renewables in Scottish Waters

The Data Gap Analysis Report summarises the background to and aims of the overall appraoch to socio-economics and offshore renewable energy planning. It sets out the approach that has been adopted to identifying baseline information requirements, which ta

2. Identifying the Evidence Requirements

2.1 Identification and Categorisation of Relevant Marine Uses and Other Interests

Offshore wind and wave and tidal developments have the potential to interact with most existing marine uses. The list of marine uses from Scotland's Marine Atlas (Baxter et al, 2011) has therefore been used as a starting point as it provides a comprehensive categorisation of marine uses in Scotland's seas. Non-marine interests such as aviation, tourism and social factors have been added to this list, as previous studies have indicated the potential for interaction with offshore wind and/or wave and tidal development.

The categories for the baseline reviews therefore encompassed the following marine uses and other interests:

  • Aquaculture (finfish and shellfish);
  • Aviation;
  • Carbon Capture and Storage;
  • Coast Protection and Flood Defence;
  • Commercial Fisheries (including salmon and sea trout);
  • Energy Generation (and offshore renewables supply chains);
  • Military Interests;
  • Oil and Gas (including exploration, production, interconnectors, gas storage);
  • Ports and Harbours;
  • Power Interconnectors;
  • Recreational Boating;
  • Shipping;
  • Social and Community (including population, income, index of deprivation, economic activity, community wellbeing, education and skills, health and housing);
  • Telecom Cables;
  • Tourism (including heritage assets);
  • Waste Disposal (dredge material); and
  • Water Sports.

During the first Steering Group meeting a request was made to ensure that all social impacts were considered including the use of the area by indigenous peoples e.g. use of coastal footpaths, golf courses, health and employment. These are reported within the social and community sections of the baseline review.

2.2 Factors in the Consideration of Evidence Requirements

Existing guidance on impact assessment 1 is not prescriptive in terms of baseline evidence requirements, indicating that: 'The effort applied at each step of completing an Impact Assessment, in particular the estimation of cost and benefits, should be proportionate to the scale of the costs and benefits, outcomes at stake, sensitivity of the proposal and the time available'. The guidance further states that 'As you move through the policy making process and progress the different stages of the accompanying Impact Assessment, the quality of data being used and depth of analysis should be refined to make it more specific to the proposals, and to improve its accuracy'.

In the absence of clear guidance, there are a number of considerations that can help to inform the information requirements.

2.2.1 The Potential for Interaction with Socio-economic Interests

It is helpful to understand the potential for interaction between offshore wind, wave & tidal development with other marine uses and interests and to seek to ensure that the baseline information can inform subsequent assessments of the potential cost impacts associated with the outcome of those interactions. A number of previous studies have helped to identify potential interactions including Scottish Executive (2007); Marine Scotland (2011b); ABPmer et al (2011) and ABPmer & RPA (2012b). Information from these studies has been used to scope potential interactions and their associated information requirements (see section 2.3).

2.2.2 Economic Value and Employment

Impact assessments seek to identify those sectors and interests that might be affected by the policy intervention and to quantify (as far as possible) changes in costs and benefits. These costs and benefits are usually expressed in terms of economic value and employment. Information on existing economic values and employment in those sectors and interests that might be affected is therefore important in providing a baseline against which future changes can be assessed. Preferably economic value information is to be presented as Gross Value Added ( GVA - a measure of the increase in value of goods and services produced by an activity), although in the absence of GVA data, information on turnover or replacement cost (for example, in relation to damage to assets) can be used.

2.2.3 Spatial Extent and Intensity of Activity and Interests

Given that the potential for the potential socio-economic impact (and thus interaction) often depends on the spatial location of marine uses and other interests relative to offshore wind, wave or tidal development, it is important that the socio-economic baselines include a strong spatial component and that the spatial distribution of the relevant uses and interests are defined at a suitable level of resolution. In addition, information on the spatial intensity of an activity is also important in informing how economic value may be distributed spatially and can thus be important in identifying the relative scale and value of an activity or interest that might be at risk as a result of any interaction.

2.2.4 Temporal Change

Impact assessments need to consider how costs and benefits may change over time. For uses and interests that may be variable over time, it is helpful to understand the scale of that variability and historical trends and to take account of future protected changes, where available. The Treasury Green Book 2 notes that 'Costs and benefits considered should normally be extended to cover the period of the useful lifetime of the assets encompassed by the options under consideration'. For the purposes of this study, current baselines will be projected up to 50 years in the future. This takes account of the potential phasing of development and decommissioning and a lifetime for offshore wind assets of 40 years (assuming repowering after 20 years).

2.3 Scoping of Interactions

A scoping exercise was carried out to support the identification of baseline evidence requirements which took account of the potential for interaction between offshore renewable energy development and other marine uses and interests. Appendix B provides a series of tables for each marine use or interest which:

  • Describe the potential for interaction with offshore wind, wave and tidal development;
  • Identify the information requirements necessary to provide a socio-economic baseline that can adequately inform impact assessments (having regard to the nature and scale of the likely interactions); and
  • Summarise existing national and regional data sources on which the baseline reviews might draw.

Collation of baseline information to inform an assessment of all of these interactions would be a major task. In order to focus the baseline reviews, a simple exercise was undertaken which considered:

  • The potential socio-economic impacts that may arise as a result of the interactions and their likely significance - where interactions and potential impacts were considered to be small no baseline data was considered necessary (see Column 4 of the Appendix B); and
  • The cause of the potential socio-economic impact - where socio-economic impacts may arise as a result of potential environmental changes, these have been scoped out the socio-economic baseline study, on the basis that the Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) and Habitats Regulations Appraisals ( HRA) that will be prepared to accompany future sectoral plans for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy will provide the necessary environmental information to inform an assessment of potential socio-economic impacts, should this be required.

2.4 Overall Baseline Information Requirements

Based on the considerations in section 2.2 and the scoping exercise described in section 2.3, the general approach adopted in developing the baseline reviews has therefore been to seek to compile information on the following elements:

  • Distribution, level and intensity of uses and interests, including an indication of how they have changed over last decade;
  • Specific information identified as necessary from the scoping of interactions;
  • Map of spatial distribution of existing activity;
  • Current and recent economic values and employment - this has used the most recent data available, with base year data generally within the period 2008 to 2010; and
  • Future trends - these have been described as far as possible using available information, looking forward for a period of 50 years.

During discussions with the Steering Group the project team were asked if the future trends could be considered both qualitatively and quantitatively, it was agreed that all activities could be described in qualitative terms based on past trends and on sound knowledge of any future developments or changes in the sectors. However any description of trends going forward in a quantitative manner would be limited and provided where possible on an activity by activity basis.


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