Offshore power production and marine stakeholders
: from understanding conflict to impact mitigation

  • Karen Alexander

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


Little is known about the impact of marine renewable energy installations upon the marine environment and those who use it. Harnessing marine energy will involve the offshore siting of energy extraction devices and their associated infrastructure. This will alter the local environment and substantially modify use and access for a variety of marine stakeholders, potentially leading to conflict. Using the Ecosystem Approach (EA) as a conceptual framework, this thesis aimed to answer the question: What is the potential for conflict between the marine renewable energy industry and marine stakeholders, and how can this be mitigated?
The research consisted of three components which used a variety of methods: i) stakeholder identification through a review of the literature and use of a novel interactive mapping method; ii) an investigation of the potential consequences for the priority stakeholder which used a mail survey and in-depth interviews; and iii) an exploration of potential mitigation which used ecosystem modelling.
The stakeholder most likely to be affected by marine renewable energy device (MRED) deployment was the fishing industry. Potential consequences included: navigation and safety hazards, loss of access and alternative employment. Further exploration revealed that a loss of livelihood was the all-encompassing concern for fishers, and that skills shortages (transferable skills) may mean that should a loss of livelihood occur there may not be acceptable alternative employment. The modelling exercise indicated that it is not currently possible to definitively predict whether any opportunities which may be created by MRED installation will mitigate any negative effects, and that exclusion zones may actually decrease catches for most fleets.
The findings of this study have implications for ‘conflict-free’ development of the marine renewable energy industry. To address this, several policy recommendations were offered as regards to operationalising the EA in terms of marine renewable energy.
Date of Award13 Dec 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SponsorsUK Centre for Marine Energy Research, ERDF & Highlands and Islands Enterprise
SupervisorTom Wilding (Supervisor), Johanna Heymans (Supervisor), Tavis Potts (Supervisor) & Ian Bryden (Supervisor)

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