Resolving issues with environmental impact assessment of marine renewable energy installations

Ilya M. D. Maclean, Richard Inger, David Benson, Cormac G. Booth, Clare B. Embling, W. James Grecian, Johanna J. Heymans, Kate E. Plummer, Michael Shackshaft, Carol E. Sparling, Ben Wilson, Lucy J. Wright, Gareth Bradbury, Nadja Christen, Brendan J. Godley, Angus C. Jackson, Aly McCluskie, Rachel Nicholls-Lee, Stuart Bearhop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Growing concerns about climate change and energy security have fueled a rapid increase in the development of marine renewable energy installations (MREIs). The potential ecological consequences of increased use of these devices emphasizes the need for high quality environmental impact assessment (EIA). We demonstrate that these processes are hampered severely, primarily because ambiguities in the legislation and lack of clear implementation guidance are such that they do not ensure robust assessment of the significance of impacts and cumulative effects. We highlight why the regulatory framework leads to conceptual ambiguities and propose changes which, for the most part, do not require major adjustments to standard practice. We emphasize the importance of determining the degree of confidence in impacts to permit the likelihood as well as magnitude of impacts to be quantified and propose ways in which assessment of population-level impacts could be incorporated into the EIA process. Overall, however, we argue that, instead of trying to ascertain which particular developments are responsible for tipping an already heavily degraded marine environment into an undesirable state, emphasis should be placed on better strategic assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
Number of pages5
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2014


  • Ecological impact assessment
  • Environmental impacts
  • Marine biodiversity
  • Marine protected areas
  • Offshore wind
  • United Kingdom
  • Wind farm
  • Wind power


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