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Marine spatial planning and its application in the marine energy field in France

Date: October 07, 2013 at 18:17 GMT

The contribution of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) in the package is still lacking in France, with the single 240 MW tidal facility operated since 1966 in La Rance, Brittany. In comparison, other European countries like Denmark started to focus early on off shore wind energy [1 - 2]. France has the second largest maritime area in the world, and the offshore wind resource is comparable with the northern countries' potential [3]. This French paradox can historically be justified by its energy security, but also by former insufficient support schemes and non adapted regulations, preventing any offshore wind farms projects to see the light.

The awareness of the green house gases' effects on climate change coupled with the rarefaction in fossil energy resources nowadays lead to a growing interest in renewable energies. In France, one of the objectives is that by 2020, 23% of all energy consumed will be generated from renewable sources. During the Oceans Round Table in 2009, the contribution of MRE to the global scenario has been estimated at 6000 MW by 2020. To achieve this objective, the Blue Book commitments [4] recommend three main measures: 

  • Committing to a proactive industrial policy in respect of marine energy,
  • prioritising the development and production of renewable energy in the overseas collectivities,
  • supporting and planning the sustainable development of MRE.

This paper will focus on the third point. In the past, the traditional project-by-project approach had to face the saturation of marine space due to an increasing competition between sectoral interests and the emergence of conflicts among users [5]. More recent concern has focused on a comprehensive planning process, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP). As defined by Ehler and Douvere [6], MSP is a « public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives that are usually specified through a political process. MSP should be ecosystem-based and is an element of sea use management ». Many steps in a MSP process are facilitated by the use of tools like Ocean Zoning. GIS is renowned for processing, managing and analysing spatially referenced data, but there is a growing consensus [7-8] to couple GIS with a Multicriteria Analysis Method in order to elaborate a Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS).

This article will focus on the recently completed Marine Spatial Planning in France in regards to the offshore wind farms problematic. The method applied to obtain the favourable areas for offshore wind farms and the involvement of stakeholders during the process will be detailed. Only results on the Channel and North coast will be depicted. The interested reader should consult the geoportal and links herein to have detailed reports / results / maps on each coastline (

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