Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Ecological consequences of offshore wind (ECOWind)

ECOWind will address two challenges. How will offshore wind expansion, combined with other anthropogenic pressures, affect species interactions and marine ecosystems? How can understanding these consequences enable robust approaches to marine environmental restoration and net environmental gain?

Budget:
£7 million
Duration:
2021 to 2025
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Crown Estate (TCE) and Defra

The scope and what we're doing

The Ecological Consequences of Offshore Wind (ECOWind) programme aims to address a critical gap in understanding how marine ecosystems will respond to large-scale expansions of UK offshore wind infrastructure. It will provide evidence to inform marine policy and management of increasing pressures on UK marine ecosystems from a combination of offshore wind, other anthropogenic stressors (for example, oil and gas, aquaculture and fishing), including environmental responses to climate change.

Outcomes will inform how we manage UK waters and achieve net zero, while ensuring net environmental gain and how to address the lack of progress toward achieving Good Environmental Status in several biodiversity indicator areas, including pelagic habitats and food webs, and marine birds.

At the same time, the programme will directly engage the marine transdisciplinary research community in addressing critical longer-term science challenges, and science-to-policy needs.

This programme has been co-designed with partners, TCE and Defra and will deliver:

  • new ways of understanding effects at spatial and temporal scales, using and developing innovative technologies to observe processes and detect change in ecosystem functioning
  • outcomes focused on immediate consenting challenges to facilitate deployment of offshore wind, such as mitigation of collision risk to birds
  •  timely policy-relevant science outcomes, informing decision-making and the implementation of emerging policy concepts.

The programme aims to have strong policy stakeholder engagement throughout (for example, Defra and Marine Scotland), as it will deliver outcomes that will inform policy and marine management solutions to tackle the twin crises of climate changes and biodiversity decline. There will be opportunities to leverage outcomes from complementary investments by TCE in the Offshore Wind Evidence and Change (OWEC) programme as well as industry investments (for example, data, surveys, fieldwork).

Why we're doing it

The UK commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 was strengthened in 2020 with ambitious new targets for at least 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (from 1990 levels). To help meet this target, the government has committed to 40GW of new offshore wind electricity generation by 2030, representing a fourfold expansion of infrastructure deployment in UK waters. Commitments to net zero are made in the Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Strategy and the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, and are being advanced through the Crown Estate’s (TCE’s) recently-awarded Round 4 leasing process for offshore wind, with future leasing rounds anticipated.

Alongside the large-scale expansion of offshore wind to meet net zero targets, other significant government commitments relevant to marine systems must be addressed, including biodiversity protection, achieving net environmental gain and restoration, and sustainable fisheries, as set out in the UK government’s 25-year environment plan. Despite advances in the strategic coordination and management of marine activities, the extent to which large-scale offshore wind deployment in UK seas influences success with other policy objectives is poorly understood.

There is an urgent need for leading edge research that takes advantage of innovative technologies to better understand the functioning of the UK marine ecosystems within which large-scale offshore wind deployment is situated, in order to develop policy and management solutions to address commitments to net zero, other anthropogenic activities (for example, oil and gas, aquaculture and fishing), and emerging policy areas (net gain and environmental restoration).

Opportunities, support and resources available

There are currently no open funding opportunities.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme

Jessica Surma

Email: ecowind@nerc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07925 891431

Nicola Lewis

Email: ecowind@nerc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07738 121187

Jessica Lucia

Email: ecowind@nerc.ukri.org

Telephone: 07564 048952

Governance, management and panels

The governance of this programme encompasses different organisations which carry out different roles.

Programme executive board

The board is responsible for providing the strategic direction for the ECOWind programme, the delivery of the programme’s objectives and is the ultimate decision-making authority for the programme. It comprises the programme’s delivery partners as follows:

  • NERC (chair)
  • TCE representative
  • Defra representative.

Programme advisory group

The programme advisory group provides strategic advice to the programme executive board, and to the ECOWind programme champion, to ensure the successful delivery of the programme’s objectives, against agreed milestones and deliverables. Members will be appointed by NERC and TCE and will include researchers and two representatives from organisations involved with OWEC to assist in ensuring complementarity of the two programmes and leverage opportunities arising from OWEC.

Secretariat

The secretary, based at NERC head office, provides administrative support to the board.

Last updated: 23 August 2022

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