The role of marine areas in energy production is growing – maritime spatial planning meets the challenge

The Ministry of the Environment and the Finnish Maritime Spatial Planning Coordination Group organised a National Interaction Forum on offshore wind power in Helsinki on 4 September 2023. More than 90 representatives from the marine sector attended the event. The forum highlighted the common need for a comprehensive understanding of the impact of offshore wind development on the marine environment and other marine sectors.

In particular, the Forum discussed the overall impact of offshore wind and other marine energy production and the development of criteria for assessing the overall impact. Finnish security, security of supply and nature values were jointly identified as important themes that should be given more attention in the future, especially in the overall assessment. The Forum called for clarity in the roles and rules of the game in planning and decision-making. Discussions highlighted the need to collect, produce and share openly available research and analysis data to support offshore wind planning, permitting and project developers.

The Interaction Forum emphasised the importance of international cooperation at different stages of offshore wind development. Finland and Sweden share responsibility for the development of the Gulf of Bothnia and the importance of promoting cooperation between maritime spatial planning, ministries and other authorities and research institutes was emphasised.

The forum was the first event in the Ministry of the Environment’s project Forum on Maritime Spatial Planning and Tidal Impacts of Offshore Wind Energy. Two national and five regional events will be organised in autumn 2023. The cooperation will continue with five regional forums in Kotka on 9 October, Rauma on 13 October, Vaasa on 31 October, Oulu on 8 November and Tornio on 9 November.

The purpose of the Interaction Forums is to build cooperation and understanding between different stakeholders on challenges, opportunities and solutions to coordinate maritime activities. Changes in the use of the marine space will be planned in a collaborative way, coordinating the needs of the different sectors.

Photo: reflections from the National Interaction Forum.

Interaction Forum supports maritime spatial planning in Finland. The first Maritime Spatial Plan 2030 for Finland was adopted in 2020. Since then, the situational picture and development visions of Finland’s marine areas and the Baltic Sea has changed rapidly. The European Green Deal (2019) and in particular Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine have highlighted the importance of marine energy production and marine food security for national security of supply. Pressure on the use of marine areas is high. The renewable energy offered by offshore wind power reduces climate emissions and improves security of supply, but its environmental impact and coordination with other maritime actors pose challenges. Maritime spatial planning brings together different stakeholders and reconciles the needs of offshore wind and other marine energy production with the constraints of marine nature. The Maritime Spatial Plan will be updated by 2026.

Gaia Consulting Oy is responsible for preparing and organising the forums and compiling the results in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment and the Maritime Spatial Planning Coordination Group.