The Crown Estate and UK government have today launched a new offshore wind partnership to protect and restore the country’s marine environment as it seeks to chart a course towards net-zero emissions by unlocking the green energy potential of the UK seabed.
The partnership, called the ‘Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme’, will gather and harness data and evidence to drive forward the growth of the sector in the UK.
The partnership will be led by The Crown Estate, which has committed to a five-year £25m kick-starter investment for the programme, alongside strategic partners the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Together with the devolved governments, the collaboration will bring together more than 20 stakeholder organisations and support the government’s wider efforts to develop a vision for the future of the offshore wind sector.
The Programme’s strategic research and data projects will provide insights to help the sector better understand and address environmental considerations and interactions with other industries and activities, both around the coast and offshore.
This will enable a more coordinated and strategic approach to the delivery of the new infrastructure required to deliver net-zero emissions by 2050, to ensure the sector can deliver at pace while protecting the broader natural environment.
Initial projects through the partnership, include an East Coast Grid Spatial study, to be delivered with National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), National Grid Electricity Transmission and The Marine Management Organisation.
This will help build understanding of the interactions that future offshore wind farms on the east coast of England are likely to face when connecting into the electricity network and whether alternative approaches to connection can reduce community and environmental impacts.
There is also to be a Future Offshore Wind Scenarios project, which will be a UK-wide study delivered with Crown Estate Scotland and BEIS.
The project will develop and examine spatial scenarios, to better understand the opportunities for future offshore wind deployment.
Offshore Wind Industry Council co-chair and Vattenfall UK country manager Danielle Lane, said: “This programme will help to ensure that we continue to install vitally-needed new offshore wind capacity in an environmentally sensitive way.
“Safeguarding our precious marine ecosystem is a key factor in the way we work as responsible developers.
“Minimising any impact of the infrastructure needed to connect our projects to the electricity network is as important to us as it is to local communities which are being regenerated by offshore wind.
“This ambitious programme brings together industry, government and wildlife organisations to create a new forum which will help us to reach the Prime Minister’s target of 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030 while protecting wildlife and working closer with the communities hosting us”.
The Crown Estate chief executive Dan Labbad said: “Recognising the crucial role of the nation’s seabed on our path to net zero, I’m delighted to launch this new partnership which will help lay sustainable foundations for the next phase of the offshore wind success story, in a way which will help us to maintain healthy, biodiverse seas.
“The partnership will be at the centre of how we ensure a more coordinated approach to delivering the infrastructure that will be required to tackle climate change.”
UK Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK is already a world leader in offshore wind energy and the Government’s Ten Point Plan has laid out a bold ambition to lead the green industrial revolution by embracing innovative new technologies.
“Creating jobs and increasing capacity to 40 GW by the end of this decade will be key to helping us reach our commitment for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but safeguarding our precious marine environment remains a priority, which is why this partnership is so important.”
UK Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “It is important that we all work together to bring about change and reduce our contribution to climate change.
“Renewable energy plays a key role in this and as we work to increase renewable sources of energy we must ensure that our precious marine environment is protected at the same time.
“I am delighted that Defra is a part of this programme, providing expert advice relating to the growing calls on our marine space so that we can deliver offshore developments while protecting our unique marine resources.”
The programme also brings together a steering group which includes Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland government bodies, regulators including the Marine Management Organisation, non-governmental organisations such as RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, and RenewableUK on behalf of the industry.
The partnership is borne out of last year’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal, which aims to build on the UK’s global leadership in offshore wind and maximise economic benefits across the whole of the UK.