An industry led sub-group of Marine Energy Pembrokeshire (MEP) has recently provided recommendations to assist Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Welsh Government in streamlining the marine energy consenting process in Wales.
In 2014, a consenting subgroup was established with the primary aim of reviewing consenting on a UK level and providing recommendations to NRW and Welsh Government on how Wales can support the sector in aiming to reduce project risk and increase the rate of project deployment, MEP’s press release reads.
Following the work carried out by the industry members of the group, a ‘Welsh Marine Energy Consenting Recommendations paper’ has recently been provided to NRW and Welsh Government.
The paper proposes a list of 7 key recommendations for streamlining the marine renewables planning process ranging from the imperative for increased resourcing, the identification and production of ‘best practice’ guidance to assist developers, and the provision of clarity to developers though a consenting framework with timescales.
One of the key recommendations proposed by MEP is that Welsh Government should adopt a policy to enable NRW to take a more risk-based, proportionate approach to consenting for marine renewable energy projects, it is stated in MEP’s press release.
David Jones, Project Director at MEP, said: “We welcome the collaborative approach from Welsh Government and NRW in engaging with MEP and industry. Having representatives from the NRW Marine Licensing Team and Advisory team together with Welsh Government as part of the consenting sub-group is very positive from an industry perspective.
“Welsh Government and NRW have a key role to play in enabling the consenting process to be as efficient as possible and we look forward to working together in the future with the aim of simplifying the process, facilitating earlier consenting decisions and making Wales even more attractive to industry.”
Scottish Government has developed a ‘survey, deploy and monitor’ policy, which aims to speed up deployment based on the likely ‘risk’ of a development, according to the environmental sensitivity of the location, and the scale and type of device/s being deployed.
In practice, this approach means that whilst most Environmental Impact Assessments require at least two years’ data on marine wildlife at a particular site, where the environmental risk is low, a project could proceed with reduced survey requirement, thus enabling smaller, early stage and shorter-term projects to progress without being restricted by a high level of uncertainty and therefore precaution.
MEP states that both the Marine Licensing Team and Advisory Section of NRW will be critical in delivering the ambitions of industry in the coming years and that adequate resourcing will assist in the expected increase of marine energy projects in Wales.
MEP is a partnership between technology developers, the supply chain, academia and the public sector working together to establish Pembrokeshire as a ‘centre of excellence’ for sustainable marine energy generation.