Case Study

ESRU Energy Systems Research Unit

University of Strathclyde


Environment: Organisations

    SEPA    SNH    CE    MoD     DTi     NLB    Local Authorities   
Environment Introduction Evaluation


Organisations (Quangos and NGOs mainly) that form an integral part of the consent process are listed as follows. Each may also have the authority to push for an outright rejection if unsatisfied with an aspect of the proposal, based on their individual remit and outlined criteria:


SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) will require a rigorous Environmental Impact Assessment, and have various points of contact throughout Scotland, each facet dealing with specific areas of environmental concern. During research, various SEPA representatives offered to compile relevant information for a potential developer. It is possible that a Strategic Environmental Assessment may have to be undertaken in this respect also (which differs in terms of legal implications), and guidance can be found on this issue at It should also be noted that an EIA will have to be submitted with applications to other bodies as well, thus it is in a developer’s best interests to undertake this activity with the utmost rigour to ensure a smooth process.

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SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) provides the British government with advice which enables energy policy to take into account natural heritage issues. They are primarily concerned with the potential impacts of energy use and production, though detailed advice is limited due to early stages of technology development - as is the case with some of the other bodies as well. SNH state: “Out-with areas of high scenic or marine wildlife value, tidal stream generators may offer the potential to generate electricity with lower impacts on the natural heritage than for land-based renewables,” mirroring the general ethos of positivism towards renewable development across the board. Similarly, SNH expects impacts on coastal landscapes, marine natural heritage, and seabird populations to be assessed for all types of offshore developments, but are still conducting a review of the natural heritage impacts of offshore generators. On the same note, many of the major Scottish estuaries hold internationally important numbers of wildfowl, and contain land or intertidal areas designated as SPAs or SACs.

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CE (Crown Estate) effectively owns the seabed to the territorial limit of UK waters to 12 nautical miles, and towards the continental shelf. Before considering installing anything in the sea, the Crown Estate must be approached with an application, the outcome of which if successful will be a contract/license to rent a relevant portion of the seabed, at a cost proportional to the scale of development. A secondary issue, and arguably intuitive though not well known, is that the Crown Estate will stipulate the provision of third party liability insurance for offshore generation.

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MoD (Ministry of Defence) fully reflects the Government’s policies on ‘Sustainable Development’. Upon enquiry as to the extent of the Ministry of Defence’s part in any consultation dealing with marine renewable deployment, the direct advice was to specifically contact the Defence Estates branch of the organisation. As a major landowner in the United Kingdom and due to areas designated for military exercises, it would be most wise to do this to ensure the highest likelihood of a successful application.

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DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency). A potential developer must apply to the DTI for permission to deploy marine renewables, and upon application a specific branch of the DTI called the Offshore Renewables Consent Unit deal with the application by consulting the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Again an Environmental Impact Assessment will have to be presented, but it is unclear if the exact criteria will match the EIA required by other bodies. The MCA will then advise the DTI whether or not to permit the proposed deployment based on a number of areas specific to the MCA’s remit, which is coastal protection, which in turn is an act devolved to the Scottish Executive. On the same note MCA has responsibility, on behalf of the Department for Transport of the UK Government, for the safety of navigation under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
The advice given was that a developer must attempt to adhere to the stipulations outlined in Marine Guidance Note 275 (MGN 275) [2] which is an initial attempt to standardise the approach to offshore renewables, though at present this is geared specifically for offshore wind. However many of the areas are universally applicable. It should be noted that work is being done to encapsulate marine current technology, but this is constantly evolving, so the developer must seek the most up to date information – generally available from MCA’s website and through direct consultation. As far as the MCA are concerned, a failure to adhere to MGN 275 will constitute a level of negligence and will probably result in an initial push for a rejection of any application, as the body has been granted clear authority in this area. They are also concerned with pollution as they generally will be charged with any rescues and clean-up operations after such an event, and strict liaising will be essential. Potential obligations are also listed in the environmental section.

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NLB (Northern Lighthouse Board or Trinity House in England and Wales). This body is charged with ensuring the safety of surface craft, specifically in terms of navigation and navigational aids. They request consultation on case by case basis, and this may be as simple as direct contact and then subsequent e-mailing of potential site and justification of choice. Again an EIS will go in with the application, and they will consider on merit the course of action they deem appropriate to ensure the safety of mariners. The stipulations range from simple flasher-buoys for singular devices, notices to mariners in various publications or local information centres; or physical mapping for farm deployment to be included in hydrographic charts for the location in question. They similarly carry the authority for rejection of applications if they consider the justification or imposed safety measures to be inadequate. The NLB have standardised their stance with the IALA for renewable energy applications and advocate a similar stance across the range of organisations involved in marine renewables consent.

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Local Authorities

Local Authorities will play a large part in the process wherever the proposed site is. Strict liaising should be expected and the consent process may be lengthy and multi-faceted. A public consultation will be very likely, giving the public a chance to air any concerns or opinions, or specific objections which can then be answered. In some cases, what may be even more laborious will be the consent process for connecting a farm to the grid, meaning more focussed bodies will enter the fray. For instance SNH on land, areas of conservation or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, etc., will have to be satisfied before commencement.

There may be other issues that must be resolved that are not noted here, but the aim was to give a good overview of the scope of work that is required, and consultation with the relevant bodies will reveal anything else that needs to be undertaken. Generally speaking, the bodies mentioned are very approachable and helpful, and offer a great amount of the relevant information on their websites. If information is not in the public domain, it matters not as direct contact will be made by the serious developer in any case. The consent process however is dynamic and very much evolving to encompass the growing concerns in marine renewables. At the time of writing, some of the bodies recognised the need for greater standardisation across the board, and conceded that there may be areas of overlap or unclear authority, though they all seem to be working quickly to mitigate this situation.

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Environment Introduction Evaluation

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