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Offshore wind farm and ocean at sunrise

Marine

Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme

The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme brings together a coalition of 27 government organisations, industry bodies, and environmental NGOs to collaborate and act as agents for change in the face of climate and biodiversity crises.

This is achieved through a range of prioritised projects that will create a data and evidence base that can be used to shape the future of offshore wind and the marine environment.

Projects, which are led by individual members of the UK-wide programme and other important partners, are made possible through drawing down from a £50m funding commitment by The Crown Estate, who lead the programme. It is delivered in partnership with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The programme is part of The Crown Estate’s broader commitment to work in partnership with a wide range of organisations that have a role to play offshore to ensure that the UK’s increasingly busy sea space can continue to catalyse home grown clean energy for all, jobs and investment for communities and a considerate, sustainable approach which respects the nation’s rich marine biodiversity.

Delivering net zero and nature positive offshore wind

Building out more offshore wind is critical for the UK to strengthen energy security, meet its net zero targets and to tackle climate change. The government’s target of 50GW installed by 2030 is to be doubled by 2050. However, this infrastructure can have far-reaching effects, both positive and negative, on marine and coastal environments – as well as other users of the sea space, such as fisheries.

Our marine and coastal ecosystems provide us with life-supporting services - food production, climate regulation, carbon sequestration and clean water. Whilst the marine environment’s resilience is vital to support sustainable human use for generations to come, it is being affected by climate change and other human activities. We are now looking to these systems to also accommodate this vital expansion of offshore wind.

Using data and evidence to balance competing needs

To enable these multiple priorities to prosper in a sustainable way that doesn’t come at the expense of the marine environment, we are investing to establish a wide-ranging base of data and evidence to fill critical knowledge gaps. By making this easily accessible to relevant parties, offshore wind development can be accelerated in lockstep with goals to restore marine environments that are already under pressure – creating opportunities for marine recovery and greater biodiversity in the process.

At its heart, robust and accessible data should help speed up the consenting process by reducing uncertainties, encouraging innovative design measures to enhance biodiversity, and providing a better understanding of the spatial needs of user groups. Creating and sharing reliable data lies at the heart of investments both in the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme, and the Marine Data Exchange. The Marine Data Exchange is a world leading, first of its kind resource of marine industry survey data, research, and evidence.

This means considering the impacts of offshore wind on the whole seabed – this could be by getting a greater understanding of how sub-sea cabling can be designed to encourage colonisation by marine wildlife, noting the impact of electromagnetic fields produced by infrastructure around the country, or looking at how strategic environmental compensation can be deployed in a more effective manner.

Driving change through collaboration

As steward of the seabed, The Crown Estate plays a unique role in delivering social, environmental, and economic value for the nation. This is achieved through the collaboration exemplified in this programme.

The Programme Steering Group of 27 organisations meets three times a year to drive the programme and agree priorities. As well as representation from environmental NGOs and industry bodies, this group brings together governments from all four nations and their advisors, to ensure data and evidence can positively impact the whole of the UK. Programme steering group members provide their valuable time and extensive expertise in support of the programme on key issues and important developments in their fields.

To find out more about our projects and the Programme Steering Group, including presentations from recent meetings, click on the links below.

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OWEC annual reports