It contains a summary of existing information on different uses of the seas, shows how the different uses may impact on each other and makes recommendations for future research to ensure that the plan is properly underpinned by relevant and good quality information.
The final Plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters will highlight how the area’s huge potential in marine energy can be used, managed and protected to balance other commercial interests and environmental challenges.
Earlier this month (March 16), plans to generate 1.2GW of marine energy from 10 sites in the area were announced following the world’s first commercial wave and tidal leasing round (see this NewEnergyFocus.com story).
The Scottish Government’s report notes that there is a need to realise the opportunity for Scotland to become a world leader in combating climate change and in the development of renewable energy technologies.
However, it outlines the risks/barriers to achieving this, which include:
* Lack of grid infrastructure;
* Uncertainty in relation to interactions with other marine sectors and need to avoid conflicts;
* Availability of necessary infrastructure (ports and harbours and land based infrastructure) in time to support growth of industry;
* Need to meet requirements of environmental legislation e.g. Habitats Directive – timescales and implications in requirement for evidence;
* The timescales for marine spatial planning in relation to development. Some development proposals will proceed in advance of the statutory MSP;
* Competition to become established world leader from other countries e.g. Europe and Canada.
The report also notes that there are a range of potential interactions between marine renewables and other marine sectors – including protected species, shipping and navigation and commercial fishing – and claims there is a requirement to carry out a number of research studies to gain further understanding of the marine environment.
Commenting on the first stage report, environment secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: "The Pentland Firth is an incredible resource with huge marine energy potential that is key to developing a Scottish wave and tidal energy industry. There are already billions of pounds of investment lined up to harness the power of the sea.
"A marine spatial plan will enable us to balance development in a sustainable manner, taking account of the interests of other marine sectors and users. When finalised, the Plan will be a planning tool for developers, regulators and users of the marine environment, setting out opportunities for our main marine energy resource area and ensuring conflicts with other users of the sea are avoided."
He added that it would help the Scottish Government reach balanced decisions on the locational opportunities for new development, while respecting other activities such as fishing, shipping and the environment.
Johanna Yates, marine policy manager at trade body Scottish Renewables, said: "It’s all systems go for marine renewables and there’s a lot of excitement in the industry following the recent leasing round announcements. The Marine Spatial Plan will give shape to how the industry can develop within the leasing areas. It is an important tool for providing certainty to developers which, in turn, we hope will promote investment in the industry.
"We are looking forward to seeing the detail of this first stage plan and engaging with Marine Scotland through the next stages."
The Scottish Government commissioned global provider of professional, technical and management support services, AECOM, and marine advisor, Metoc, to produce the first stage report. It will not be open for formal consultation, but rather discussed with key stakeholders. There will be a full consultation on the draft of the plan at a later date.