Environmental Baseline Study for the Development of Renewable Energy Sources, Energy Storages and a Meshed Electricity Grid in the Irish and North Seas


The Environmental Baseline Study compiles data baselines, maps, risks, impacts and mitigation which can be considered in the development of offshore energy systems within the territorial waters of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The Study also determines the effects (positive and negative) of several future energy and grid scenarios for 2030. The results of the study can be used to inform any future plans for renewable energy generation, energy storage, grid cables and associated equipment in the Irish and North Seas. Six Recommendations were identified to set building blocks toward creating a backdrop where coordination is facilitated across Member States.

Sea Basin(s): 
Offshore renewable energy production
Submarine cables and pipelines
Type of Issue: 
Cross-border cooperation
Economic aspects
Environment aspects
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Analyse spatial aspects
Develop and implement plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Renewable Energy Directive
Strategic Environmental Assessment

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How do you develop environmental baselines and conduct environmental assessment for offshore renewable energy energy?
  • What are the key environment issues and possible mitigation measures for developing offshore renewable energy systems
  • What are the recommendations for coordinating planning efforts in developing offshore energy resources?

Implementation Context

This study was developed within the context of various European policies including the Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC, the SEA Directive and the MSP Directive. It provides baseline environmental data and information that supports planning processes for the development of renewable energy sources.   Efforts to increase renewable energy sources is backed by the Renewable Energy Directive which requires the EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020. In that respect, the development of an offshore grid in the Irish and North Seas represents a significant opportunity towards meeting these environmental objectives, as it would support the significant integration of offshore wind in the North-West European grid together with other forms of renewable energy generation and energy storage.

Aspects / Objectives

The key objectives of the Baseline Environmental Study were to:

  • Describe, identify and assess the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing a regional concept;
  • Assess reasonable alternatives to implementing the regional concept;
  • Provide decision-makers, the EU and other stakeholders with relevant information (quantitative and qualitative) to assess the adequacy of environmental considerations when supporting the implementation of the regional concept; and
  • Provide recommendations at strategic level on how potential negative effects can be minimized and how positive effects can be optimized.


A number of steps were undertaken during the Environmental Baseline Study (See figure below). The key steps included; development of mapping for capacity scenarios and grid; scoping of the Baseline Environmental Report; development of the Regional Concept Report and compilation of the Baseline Environmental Report.

Broad Approach to the Environmental Baseline Study

Main Outputs / Results

The Baseline Environmental Report comprised of an Impact Dictionary, a Data Catalogue and an Environmental Baseline. The baseline environmental assessment identified key issues of the current state of the environment and mitigation measures backed by stakeholder consultation. Key issues identified included Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna, Population and Human health, Soils, Geology and Sediment, Water, Air Quality and Climate, Material Assets, Cultural Heritage, Landscape and seascape as well as the interrelationships between these factors

A number of recommendations was identified that reflect an integrated meshed grid scenario and includes: • Planning Framework; • Coordinated Infrastructure Roll-out; • Management Framework to Minimise Environmental Impacts; • Data Management and Storage; • Best Practice Guidance; and • Monitoring and Data Requirements.


The study was structured such that recommendations were based on a sea basin level which makes it transferable to other sea basins and national jurisdiction. It also used a broad methodology which can be applied in other environmental baseline studies.

Responsible Entity

Ecofys and RPS

Costs / Funding Source

Cost: unknown

Funding Source: European Commission (Directorate-General for Energy)

Contact person

Huygen van Steen