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The Crown Estate outlines significant progress in data & evidence programme helping to sustainably accelerate growth of the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry


The Crown Estate outlines significant progress in data & evidence programme helping to sustainably accelerate growth of the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry

The Crown Estate announces significant progress in collating world-class data, evidence and research through the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme (OWEC) to help shape and deliver future offshore wind development in a way that protects and helps restore nature and the vital marine natural environment.

OWEC, a partnership between 26 members, provides a collaborative platform for organisations with an important role to play in offshore wind development. It funds projects to help fill evidence gaps, helping to inform better decision making for nature and, in turn, helping to derisk investment, accelerate delivery and maintain the UK’s attractiveness to invest.

The programme published its annual report today highlighting the key milestones achieved to ensure the UK can harness the potential of offshore wind to reach Net Zero while protecting and restoring the marine natural environment and biodiversity. These include:

  • The launch of the Offshore Wind Evidence and Knowledge Hub (OWEKH). Led by The Crown Estate and operated by AtkinsRéalis, this digital knowledge hub is set to accelerate the consenting process by streamlining Environmental Impact Assessments and provide a collaborative space where experts from across industry and academia can join forces to shape the future of offshore wind across the UK.

  • Undertaking a first of its kind investigation and mapping of marine restoration potential in English waters. Led by Natural England, this will play a pivotal role in the coming years identifying opportunities for major marine restoration programmes that will benefit natural environments and habitats.

  • Developing new research advancing understanding of interactions between subsea power cables and the marine environment. This project, led by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), will help accelerate decisions in the planning and consenting of offshore wind development – and is already being used by developers.

  • Increasing funding allocations to bring the total number of projects funded by the programme to 35, with further programmes set to launch in coming months as £62 million investment is deployed by The Crown Estate and partner contributions.

  • Bringing together policy experts, scientists, academics, and industry stakeholders for the first Annual Impact Meeting of the ECOWind programme to understand how offshore wind affects ecosystems around the UK and identified key impact actions for the next 12 months.

Gus Jaspert, Managing Director, Marine at The Crown Estate, said: “The seabed has a critical role to play in the UK’s net zero and energy security future. Offshore wind is already a great UK success story, but we know we need to do more to achieve the UK’s green energy ambitions. This must be done in a way that works not only with the many different users of the seabed, but crucially, works with nature.

“Working in partnership across the industry, governments across all four nations and Environmental NGOs and academia to develop and grow a robust evidence base is key to ensuring we are making sustainable choices for the long-term health of the marine environment and therefore also de-risking investment in projects, accelerating delivery and supporting the UK’s position as one of the most attractive places to invest in offshore wind.

“OWEC is one of our fundamental programmes for achieving this and we are already seeing benefits in the planning system, the evolution of policy and in spatial planning for new offshore wind developments, which is why we are proud to invest £50 million alongside £12 million from our partners.”

Minister for Nuclear and Renewables Andrew Bowie MP said: "The UK is leading the pack when it comes to offshore wind, having built the five largest operational windfarms in the world and with the highest deployment in Europe.

"The Crown Estate’s stellar work is providing robust data and evidence, ensuring offshore wind continues to play a crucial role in our net zero future, while protecting our treasured marine environment.

"That’s why it’s fantastic to see this progress made by the OWEC programme in 2023, and I look forward to its contribution to our 50GW and energy independence ambitions over the coming year."

Marine Minister, Lord Benyon said: "Accelerating the development of offshore wind farms is critical in our transition towards greener energy and reaching net zero by 2050, but we need to do this in a way that also protects and enhances our precious marine habitats.

"The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme plays a fundamental role in providing us with the right evidence and knowledge so we can deliver an approach that works for the industry and our marine environment. I look forward to seeing what further progress we can make."

The OWEC programme is part of The Crown Estate’s wider investment in marine data and evidence to help build the most sustainable and attractive marine economy in the world.

This includes the Marine Data Exchange, a world-leading collection of publicly available marine industry survey data, research and evidence used to help de-risk and accelerate the consenting process and to drive positive change in the sustainable development of the seabed. The Crown Estate has also begun pioneering work to digitally map the seabed to create a data and evidence base of the seabed resource needed to meet future demand across all sectors. This will be used to create a Routemap with partners to help ensure the co-ordination of future activities for nature, for energy and industries and to boost communities across the country.

In November 2023, The Crown Estate welcomed the Government’s commitment in the Autumn Statement to modernise its investment powers. This includes allowing it to borrow for the first time and therefore invest more across its business to have an even greater impact, for example through supporting the continued sustainable acceleration of offshore wind for the benefit of the nation.

OWEC Annual Report 2023