Spanish NGOs ask the Government for greater control of the offshore wind boom

In a joint effort to promote an ecological transition in Spain, Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF have presented a pioneering proposal for a regulatory framework that guarantees the fair and sustainable deployment of energy offshore wind.

Environmental organizations have shared the document with the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, which is drafting the regulatory framework for offshore wind. Given the complexity and limitations in the environmental information available on numerous marine areas, they propose focus auctions initially on one or two high potential areas for the development of offshore wind energy (ZAPER).

This strategy will allow possible negative environmental and social impacts in these areas to be addressed with greater precision. It will also make it easier for the Government and the promoting companies to actively coordinate to resolve environmental information gaps in the rest of the planned areas.

This strategic approach seeks to balance the imperative of advancing the energy transition with the prudence and responsibility necessary to protect biodiversity. Also ensure that each step is based on a solid and complete knowledge of the possible impacts of wind exploitation on the marine environment.

The document highlights the urgency of achieving climate neutrality in the EU and Spain by 2040, as well as fulfilling the commitment to protect at least 30% of marine space by 2030. For this, a rapid energy transition is essential, respectful of nature and people. Recognizing the importance of expanding renewable energies, the organizations emphasize the need to simultaneously promote energy savings and carry out an orderly deployment that ensures consensus with all actors and users of the territory, benefiting local populations and protecting biodiversity. Marine.

Friends of the Earth, Ecologistas en Acción, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF propose the following five steps for the correct approval of offshore wind energy projects:

1. Identification and delimitation of the most suitable areas for renewable deployment at sea. It refers to the process already concluded by the General State Administration of the designation of areas of high potential for the development of offshore wind energy (ZAPER) in Spain, based on criteria such as zones of usable wind resource, red zones of biodiversity. and priority areas for other socioeconomic activities.

2. Validation of the delimited ZAPER polygons. It is proposed to validate and prioritize the identified ZAPERs, giving priority to those in which a lower environmental impact is expected, involving extensive consultation and effective public participation, identification and protection of sensitive habitats and vulnerable natural elements within the ZAPERs themselves.

3. Environmental and social impact assessment prior to the assignment of the right to the water surface. A prior evaluation of each of the candidate projects is essential, including a proposal for preventive, corrective and compensatory measures to minimize negative impacts.

The organizations propose that each project present an environmental impact study before submitting to the auction for the selection of the projects to be built so that the detailed environmental information of each project contributes significantly to the selection.

4. Allocation of rights to sustainable and fair projects (auctions). It is proposed that the rights to develop offshore wind energy projects be assigned in an auction process, whose regulations are pending approval, to those promoters who meet established criteria and requirements, prioritizing their contribution to sustainability, the minimization of environmental impact , social participation and a fair distribution of benefits with local communities.

Environmental organizations propose that 50% of the score be derived from environmental criteria and 25% from social criteria.

5. Development and operation of wind farms. This step involves carrying out detailed technical and environmental studies, obtaining the necessary permits, construction, installation and commissioning of the wind farms, continuous monitoring of environmental and social conditions, and application of preventive, corrective and compensatory measures throughout the useful life of the park and its dismantling.

In this phase, environmental organizations call for continuous monitoring of hydrographic conditions and environmental and social impacts during the operation of wind farms, with transparent and accessible publication of data.

These steps are essential to guarantee a fair, sustainable and responsible deployment of offshore wind energy in Spain, considering environmental, social and economic aspects in the project planning and execution process.

Scientific knowledge

The complexity of the marine environment poses significant challenges in obtaining accurate and comprehensive information. In this context, environmental organizations are aware that for some ZAPERs, scientific knowledge may be limited in relation to some components of biodiversity, which is all the more reason to apply the precautionary principle.

Given the difficulty of carrying out complete and rigorous monitoring in all areas simultaneously, the entities propose, in an initial phase, focusing the auctions only on one or two areas of high potential for the development of marine energy (ZAPER). This strategy will allow for a careful and thorough analysis in these areas, addressing possible negative environmental and social impacts.

Meanwhile, active coordination is urged between Public Administrations, especially the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, and the promoting companies involved to resolve the information gaps in the other planned areas. This strategic approach seeks to balance the need to move forward with caution and responsibility, ensuring that each step in the renewable development process is based on a solid and complete knowledge of the marine environment.

Participation and transparency

Environmental organizations consider the incorporation of society in this new governance of offshore wind energy to be equally important, proposing measures that promote public participation, transparency and intersectoral collaboration. Among them: public consultation and participation, dissemination of relevant information, implementation of mediation and negotiation mechanisms to resolve disputes between different interested parties to promote safe and peaceful development of projects, and short supply chains and local employment generation.

In summary, Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/BirdLife and WWF emphasize the importance of involving society in decision-making, in the dissemination of transparent information, in proposals to reduce environmental impact, in the creation of participation mechanisms and in the fair distribution of socioeconomic benefits with local communities.

This reflects an inclusive and participatory governance approach that seeks to ensure fair and sustainable development of offshore wind energy, avoiding unwanted delays due to not doing things properly. In short, management, planning, prioritization and participation are the guarantee of not repeating past mistakes in the development of renewable energies on land.