Harnessing Marine Renewable Energy from Poole Harbour: Case Study
Start date: 10 September 2012
Global warming and its impact on our environment, society, economies and security is one of the fundamental concerns of our time. In response, the United Kingdom government has put in place a legally binding target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2050. The United Kingdom will need to achieve a tenfold expansion of energy supply from renewable sources by 2020 to meet its share of the European Union renewable energy target. The marine and coastal environment’s renewable energy potential in Britain is high. It is estimated that it has 50% of the tidal energy, 35% of wave and 40% of wind resources in the European Union. Use of geothermal resources using heat pump technology is the least evolved sector, but in 2010 contributed to 0.7 TWh of energy and it is believed that non domestic heat pumps could contribute up to 22 TWh by 2020. In the Southwest of England, Poole Harbour has been recognised as a potential, highly predictable source of tidal and heat energy. Local groups are embarking on a feasibility study for harnessing this energy for the benefit of the community. The purpose of this article is to examine the potential conflict of interest between the laudable aims of promoting the use of renewable energy and of safeguarding ecosystems and their biodiversity. Using Poole Harbour as a case study, it will consider the environmental and economic costs and benefits of a Community Renewable Energy project (the Poole Tidal Energy Partnership) in the context of an area subject to a number of statutory and non-statutory designations to protect nationally and internationally important habitats and species. The paper identifies key environmental legislation, including spatial planning law and policy, which will facilitate exploring whether there is potential for reconciling what may be perceived as competing objectives for sustainable development.