The UK is the current global leader in offshore wind with 10.4 gigawatts (GW) installed and a commitment to increase capacity to 50GW by 2030. There is also a drive to dramatically cut the approval times for new offshore wind farms from four years to one year.
However, decarbonizing the UK energy supply through the increased implementation of offshore wind requires an understanding on the nexus of trade-offs between climate change and multiple uses of marine natural resources (energy extraction, fisheries, and marine protected areas).
The newly funded UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) EcoNex project will work with renewable industry and policy bodies to enable evidence-based, informed actions to improve decision making when balancing environmental, social, and economic impacts and ensuring marine net gain, as part of national policy assessments. The EcoNex project will take a whole-system approach to assess changes in flows of ecosystem services and in stock values of natural capital at the nexus of climate change and marine uses of natural resources to examine benefits and trade-offs that can inform actions to ensure marine net gain.
The project is a collaboration between the University of Aberdeen and Plymouth Marine Laboratory with a range of partners representing the offshore renewable industry (Ørsted and ORE Catapult) and international academic collaboration with the Natural Capital Project, Stanford University. The Stanford team has created international collaborations where natural capital science is encouraging long-term investment in nature. Industrial partners will provide exceptional perspectives expertise and experience as well as direct pathways for the outcomes of the project to be taken up immediate and meaningful impact across the offshore renewables sector. The EcoNex project will complement the ongoing research of the Energy, Environment and Landscapes UKERC theme 3 programme, in addition to benefiting from collaboration with the Public Engagement Observatory theme. This collaboration will also promote research excellence by combining skills and extending expertise as part of the core research programme within the whole-systems approach of the Supergen ORE Hub.