The Crown Estate has commenced pioneering work to digitally map the seabed resource needed to meet future demand, enabling the delivery of multiple priorities including net zero and nature recovery, as well as the enhanced co-ordination of future activities out to 2050.
The work is a response to growing demands on the finite resources of the seabed. The seabed supports an extraordinary number of livelihoods, natural habitats and industries and, with recent advances in new industries such as offshore wind, carbon capture and storage and other renewable technologies, it is becoming an increasingly crowded space.
In collaboration with a wide range of organisations which have a role to play offshore, The Crown Estate is building an integrated, spatial analysis platform which will consider: existing and future demands on the seabed out to 2050; geographical constraints for all key offshore sectors; existing infrastructure; and environmental designations and future resource requirements for environmental habitats and nature recovery.
The platform will deliver the capability to identify key sectoral interactions over the coming decades in greater detail than ever before and will be used to:
Model how future demands could be met under various scenarios
Build a visual understanding of the ways in which a wide range of demands could be accommodated and integrated in a co-ordinated way
Drive the design of The Crown Estate’s longer-term seabed leasing processes, and identify where knowledge gaps exist which, if addressed, could improve the sophistication of future planning
Help ensure the seabed is proactively managed to enable the delivery of current and future policies, while protecting and enhancing nature/biodiversity and targets for the benefit of the nation and its communities
Help inform interactions between offshore and onshore infrastructure planning, such as the development of electricity networks.
The work will be informed by The Crown Estate’s world-class geospatial mapping capabilities and deep cross-sectoral insights into existing and current demands on the seabed. It will also complement and inform existing work in this space, including the cross-Government Marine Spatial Prioritisation work led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in collaboration with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which addresses the management of all activities in English waters. Further examples of where we expect this work to add value include collaborating on the Offshore Transmission Network Review, the Offshore Wind and CCUS Co-location Forum, the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme priorities, as well as relevant marine planning work within the devolved nations, such as contributing to Welsh Government’s Strategic Resource Area analysis and planned next steps on developing the Welsh National Marine Plan.
Gus Jaspert, Managing Director, Marine, at The Crown Estate, said:
“The seabed is facing a moment of transition with more demands on it than ever before, supporting natural habitats, vital industries including renewable energy, and playing an important role in energy security.
“As these demands intensify, a new, co-ordinated approach is needed to ensure we make the most of this vital resource for our country and for nature.
“We’re stepping up to help meet this challenge; combining our spatial mapping expertise, our cross-sector overview of seabed demands, and new digital capabilities and inputs from our partners to deliver the most sophisticated digital scenario-mapping exercise in our history. The results will act as a guiding light to inform a joint plan for how we, with our partners, can orchestrate the jigsaw of competing seabed demands and unlock the seabed’s potential to support vital industries, net zero and nature recovery for the long-term.”
Work is expected to complete in 2025, and the live platform will be continuously updated to reflect any new information and evidence. As work progresses, emerging findings will be widely shared with stakeholders so that early learnings can be captured and refinements and improvements can be made.
In the coming weeks The Crown Estate, will look to convene governments, marine planning bodies from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and sector decision-making organisations to discuss how the outputs of this programme, and insights from across the sector, can be used to develop a long-term mechanism for coordinated action over the seabed, and how it can continue to play a critical role in delivering net zero and marine nature recovery.
Building on strong foundations
Today’s announcement builds on The Crown Estate’s ongoing commitment to working with a wide range of partners and experts to co-ordinate seabed activity, and building data and evidence to inform how it can sustain a wide variety of industries and marine life for the long term. This includes:
Through The Crown Estate’s formation of the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change programme – with £50million of investment by The Crown Estate - convening government bodies, the industry and key stakeholders from across the UK to gather and harness the data and evidence to propel forward the growth of UK offshore wind at pace, while maintaining clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas
Continuing to grow the Marine Data Exchange, the world’s leading database of offshore renewables survey data, research and evidence. And developing increasingly sophisticated spatial planning tools
Collaborating with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero on the Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR) to ensure a more coordinated approach for transmission connections for offshore wind generation
Collaborating on the cross-Government Marine Spatial Prioritisation Programme, which addresses the management of all activities in English waters
Collaborating with the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) and Crown Estate Scotland to explore and understand market requirements for future CCUS development and to share data
Working with all marine planning authorities and seabed managers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on UK-wide challenges such as nature recovery
Leading the Offshore Wind and CCUS Co-location Forum, which brings together partners including the NSTA, the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), RenewableUK, Government and Crown Estate Scotland to provide strategic coordination of co-location research and activity and help maximise the potential of the seabed for offshore wind and CCUS
Investing in a multi-million pound series of technical and environmental surveys around potential locations for new floating wind farms in the Celtic Sea to accelerate the delivery of projects
Contributing to the Floating Offshore Wind Task Force alongside RenewableUK, industry leaders, senior Government officials and other key stakeholders to ensure that the UK stays at the forefront of this cutting-edge offshore wind technology, creating thousands of new jobs and attracting billions in private investment.
For further information about The Crown Estate’s work in managing the seabed and coastline around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, see here.