(REA) and Natural England have agreed to work together to help get marine renewable energy projects off the ground while also protecting the environment

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) and Natural England, the body charged with ensuring England’s natural environment is protected, have agreed to work together to help get marine renewable energy projects off the ground while also protecting the environment.

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The two bodies launched a joint statement at the REA Wave and Tidal Technology Symposium (WATTS) conference in Liverpool on Tuesday (22 September) in a move hailed as the “first step” towards achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.

REA’s head of marine, Steph Merry, said: “We need to kick-start an early dialogue, identify shared goals and seek mutually satisfactory solutions. This statement is the first step towards achieving this.”

“It will mean legislators and licensing providers can make informed decisions with regard to the consenting of marine renewables projects, maximising the environmental benefits of marine renewable energy while avoiding significant environmental impact. We hope to engage on a similar basis with other organisations over the following months,” she added.

In the statement, Natural England claimed it recognised climate change as the most serious long term threat to the natural environment and believed that wave and tidal energy developments played “an important role in contributing towards the low carbon, more efficient and sustainable energy system which is needed to tackle climate change.”

The REA has agreed to support government plans to build a network of marine protected areas

And, the REA acknowledged that some uses of the marine environment endangered nationally important wildlife and agreed to support government plans to build a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2012.

MPAs

The MPAs are designed to prevent the extinction of life in our seas, as records show that seven of the 10 warmest years for UK coastal waters occurred in the last decade and it is estimated that acidity has increased by 30% since the Industrial Revolution.

Both the REA and Natural England have agreed that the development of this network need not hinder marine renewable energy projects, with an increasing number of offshore energy installations being accommodated within MPAs.

Victoria Copley, Natural England’s marine operations advisor, said: “Natural England is committed to speeding up the development of these rapidly evolving technologies.”

“Marine renewables and nature conservation can co-exist and we want to work with the wave and tidal industry to ensure that new projects are designed and located in ways in which are the most compatible with a healthy marine environment,” she added.

Some of the shared goals mentioned in the statement are:

  • Working together to share information between both parties with an understanding of commercial sensitivities

  • Developing guidelines to clarify what is expected from project developers and what can be expected in return from Natural England

  • Joint approaches to Government to make research and centrally funded monitoring schemes a higher priority

  • Input from both parties to provide examples of where renewables located within marine protected areas (MPAs) have enhanced the achievement of the MPA’s objective

  • Natural England working to help maximise the benefits for the natural environment of some wave and tidal energy generation projects.

The statement also highlighted that the UK possesses 50% of Europe’s wave energy resources and 35% of its tidal resource – resources which the Carbon Trust estimates could provide up to 20% of the total UK electricity demand and help towards meeting renewable energy targets for 2020.

Under EU law, the UK is targeted to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020

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