The rapid growth in offshore renewable energy taking place over the coming years will represent the largest-ever change in how humans use the seas. Fuelled by the need for a decarbonized and secure energy supply, marine renewable energy has become a priority policy objective in many ICES Member Countries and beyond.
ICES sees an urgent need for scientifically informed decision-making. With the publication of ICES Roadmap for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE), ICES is taking a leadership role and fully incorporating ORE considerations into our activities.
"To understand the developing ORE sector that will impact the marine environment and other maritime sectors and its effects, we need to employ inter- and transdisciplinary scientific approaches", says Jörn Schmidt, Chair of the Science Committee, "this includes assessing environmental impacts, understanding broader social and economic consequences, and exploring opportunities for collaborative spatial use". Analyzing cumulative effects and evaluating trade-offs will be essential for informing policies and decision-making and Schmidt believes ICES can play a pivotal role, "by providing the structure for sustained scientific cooperation among experts from our Member Countries and beyond, ensuring a cohesive and informed approach to the challenges and opportunities in ORE".
Colm Lordan, Chair of the Advisory Committee, points to ICES track record in providing the best available scientific advice on ecosystem-based sustainable fisheries management and human impacts on marine ecosystems. "The unprecedented development of ORE presents some advisory challenges, but our advisory principles and frameworks are directly transferable to advice on ORE. Based on data and evidence, marine spatial planning should be used to avoid,
minimise, or mitigate the impacts of ORE developments on marine ecosystems and
other sectors. ICES has an important role in advising and supporting
evidence-based decision making”.
ICES has had several expert groups operating in this arena over the past decade, looking into issues such as the conflict between fisheries and offshore wind.
To understand the impacts of the ORE sector, ICES held the Workshop on a Research Roadmap for Offshore and Marine Renewable Energy (WKOMRE) in April 2023 with members of existing ICES
expert groups that focus on ORE, its
interactions with other human activities, and its impact on marine
habitats, along with members of other expert groups whose work relates
to specific aspects of ORE.WKOMRE explored how ICES can better coordinate science on offshore renewable energy development and identified scientific capabilities that ICES can provide to meet transboundary science needs and prepare for advisory requests. “We ask a lot from our oceans”, says Jon Hare, co-chair of WKOMRE, “food, conservation, energy, minerals, recreation, climate change mitigation. The ocean does not know national boundaries and ICES’ proven ability to work regionally and internationally is essential to multisectoral ecosystem-based management.”
Building on WKOMRE, Lisa Pfeiffer, NOAA, US led the development of the Roadmap. "The publication of the Roadmap signifies a huge advancement in international scientific collaboration around the uses of our ocean space. Decarbonization of the energy sector to preclude further climate change takes all hands on deck, including ICES marine science community who are poised to provide information and advice on how to responsibly, effectively, and adaptively advance offshore renewable energy development".
Three expert groups are leading the science objectives.
The Working Group on Marine Benthal and Renewable Energy Developments (WGMBRED) works on benthal and renewable energy-related research, including cause-effect relationships of construction and operation. The group has compiled available data on offshore wind farms benthos in the North Sea in a single database, available for large-scale analyses of the effect of offshore wind farms on the benthic environment.
WGMBRED chairs Jan Vanaverbeke, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Joop Coolen, Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands, have seen an increased interest in the activities of the group from areas where the installation of offshore wind farms is imminent (US, Southern Europe) and they expect the ORE Roadmap to further increase that interest.
Alan Haynie, ICES General Secretary is confident that ICES network is ideally equipped to lead scientific efforts in many ORE research areas, to manage new ORE datasets, and to provide interdisciplinary advice that will help answer the key questions faced by our Member Countries and advice recipients. "With our newly developed ORE Roadmap, all of ICES is working together, approaching ORE holistically with a long-term view to providing science to manage our seas for decades to come".
View and download ICES Roadmap for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) in our library.
How will offshore renewable energy impact ICES work? How will we avoid or reduce challenges and look towards opportunities? Watch a short video of WGOWDF co-chairs Andrew Lipsky and Andrew Gill discussing how ICES can coordinate and deliver science in this area.