The ocean is an abundant, clean, and renewable energy source. The increasing need to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources that are free from risk of depletion, with reduced environmental cost and ecological footprint, has highlighted the necessity for MRE development. MRE consists in:
Marine wind energy is the most mature type of renewable energy as regards technological development, commercialization, policy frameworks, and installed capacity among all forms of MRE [3
]. On these grounds, offshore wind energy is the most promising and favorable type of MRE to be developed in the MS within the next few years. According to [4
], by the end of 2016, 86% of the worldwide offshore wind capacity has been installed in the seas of the top-five European countries with offshore wind installations (UK, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium). “Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation”, a special report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has highlighted that tidal energy technology, regarding specifically tidal barrages, is also in a mature state, however, this is not the case as regards exploitation of tidal current energy. The relevant technologies are still at an early development stage. See Section 2.3
while the rest of OE technologies mostly range from the conceptual to the prototype phase [5
]. A potential timeline for the future development stages of the OE technologies (wave, current, and thermal/salinity gradients) has been provided in Figure 4 of [6
]. Given the EU target of 20% energy generation from renewable sources by 2020 and at least 27% share for renewable energy by 2030, significant MRE development is expected to be achieved over the next few years. It is anticipated that the installed capacity for marine wind up to 2020 will reach 24.6 GW [7
]. Critiques on the 2020 and 2030 EU targets have been presented in [8
], respectively. Despite Europe’s leading role in MRE development, its status in the MS is still at its infancy; the development of MRE installations is, more or less, terra incognita, and, to some degree, it is expected to face similar but probably more intense problems than those encountered in the Northern European countries for reasons explained in the following sections.
The objective of the present work is to provide an extended and pluralistic overview of the current status, potential problems, challenges, and perspectives of MRE development in the MS, with particular emphasis on offshore wind energy. The geomorphological, climatological, socio-economic and environmental/ecological particularities of the Mediterranean basin are also discussed, as they constitute the most important components of the spatial context in which MRE projects are to be implemented. General guidelines for the sustainable development of MRE in the MS are also provided, bearing in mind that, in a volatile economic environment, the key-role of the national and regional governments of the Mediterranean countries cannot be accurately prescribed.
Specifically, the following issues are elaborated in the remaining part of the paper: In Section 2
, a description of the MRE sources and the current global development is presented. The particular geomorphological, ecological, oceanographic, and wind/wave climate features of the study area, along with some important economic activities (such as tourism and fisheries), relevant to the MRE development, are discussed in Section 3
. Section 4
presents the available MRE potential in the Mediterranean, analyzes how the above-mentioned features are interrelated, and describes the way in which they are expected to shape the type and the degree of MRE penetration and development in the area. Moreover, the necessity of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies is also discussed and their importance is highlighted. In the last section, a potential roadmap for MRE development in the Mediterranean is proposed. The exploitation of the benefits and the necessary requirements that should be met for the rational MRE development in the basin are also discussed. Inevitably, the discussion is focused on the Mediterranean EU Member States.
3. The Mediterranean Basin at a Glance
In this section, an overall description of the main, multifaceted characteristics of the Mediterranean basin is presented. These characteristics are interrelated and expected to shape to a large degree the MRE development in the examined area. Firstly, the most relevant geomorphological, ecological, and oceanographic issues are discussed, together with the main features of wind and wave climate since they impose some rigid frameworks that cannot be overlooked in any future MRE industry developments in the area. Moreover, since it is expected that MRE development will influence significantly important economic sectors in the Mediterranean countries (tourism, fisheries, maritime transport, fish farming, and aquaculture), their corresponding statuses are also described.
3.1. Geomorphological Characteristics
The Mediterranean basin is characterized by geomorphological particularities that are interconnected to the MRE feasibility of development. The coastline is remarkably long and irregular, mostly due to the presence of the Iberian, Italian, and Balkan peninsulas. Its length is estimated to be approximately 46,000 km, of which nearly 19,000 km belong to islands [97
]. The coastlines are surrounded by mountain ranges and deltaic zones of large rivers [98
]. Of the coastal areas, 54% have rocky shores where even high cliffs exist (Spain, Croatia), while 46% have sandy shores (beaches, dunes, reefs, deltas) [99
]. The average depth of the MS is approximately 1500 m. The Strait of Sicily connects the western with the eastern Mediterranean sub-basin through a shallow ridge of 400 m depth [100
]. The shallowest part of the entire basin (50 m) is in the northern Adriatic, while the deepest point (5121 m) is located at the Hellenic Trench in southwest Greece [101
]. The western Mediterranean basin has a flat seabed, while the eastern presents a special sea floor topography [99
The MS has a rather narrow continental shelf, as mountain slopes drop steeply into the sea. Specifically, narrow and steep continental shelves exist off the coasts of southern and northern Turkey, Crete, Maritime Alps, Africa, Sardinia, Corsica and western Italian coast, Iberian Peninsula, and the Balearic Islands. Wide (more than 50 km) continental shelves are encountered off the estuaries of the Ebro and Rhone rivers. Due to the Po delta deposits, Adriatic Sea presents a particularly well-developed continental shelf with extended shallow areas (of less than 100 m water depths); see [98
]. The same holds true for the area of the Nile estuary. Depth ranges that are currently appropriate for MRE applications in the MS are shown in the bathymetric map of Figure 5
; see also Section 4.2
3.2. Wind and Wave Climate
Several local and regional winds are characterized by a strong seasonal variability flow over the MS, such as Mistral, Tramontana, Sirocco, Etesian, and Bora. Mistral is a strong jet blowing over the Gulf of Lion and the Ligurian Sea, up to the southern Mediterranean shore and the Ionian Sea. Tramontana belongs to the Mistral local wind system and blows north-westerly over the Roussillon region. Sirocco blows north-westerly over the Adriatic where the channelling effect caused by the local orography intensifies the flow. Bora blows north-easterly over the Adriatic and the Aegean [103
]. The Etesian winds are persistent northerly winds blowing during the summer over the Aegean Sea; their strength is affected by the tropospheric dynamics over the Eastern Mediterranean [104
]. In Figure 6
, the mean annual wind climate in the MS, obtained by the ETA numerical model results [105
], is depicted. According to these results, the Mediterranean wind pattern presents several localized extremes, such as the Gulf of Lion and the central Aegean Sea (mean annual wind speed of the order of 8 m/s), and the Kasos Straits in south-eastern Aegean Sea. The highest mean annual variability is exhibited in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, and then in the Ligurian Sea, the Tyrrhenian Sea (especially offshore the northern coasts of Sicily), the northern Aegean Sea, the Gulf of Antalya, and the Balearic Sea (between Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza, and the eastern coasts of Spain). The highest inter-annual variability appears near the coasts of Monaco and then in the northern Adriatic, Tyrrhenian, and Balearic Seas; the Gulf of Lion; the coasts of Algeria; and the Ionian and the central Aegean Sea. Recently, an in-depth assessment of the wind climate and its variability in the MS is analytically presented, using a 36-year dataset (1979–2014) from the ERA-Interim reanalysis [106
]. The data were available from the European Centre For Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).
The Mediterranean waves are short-crested and highly dependent on the existence of wind forcing. They are much smaller than the Atlantic waves, as limited fetch lengths in the basin prevent waves from travelling for long distances without large dissipation (swell). Higher values of significant wave heights occur when strong winds and long fetch exist simultaneously. The most effective combination of the above features is met in the Western Mediterranean and the Ionian Sea. Despite the limited fetch, measurements with moored buoys in the Mediterranean as well as numerical modelling results reveal the existence of sea states with significant wave height of the order of 5–7 m, or even up to 10–11 m in the case of very extreme storms. In the Gulf of Lion, 70% of the waves have a wave height greater than 1 m, while 20% have a wave height above 2.5 m (southeast of this zone) [103
]. The mean annual wave climate of the MS, in terms of significant wave height–mean wave direction and energy period (defined as
are the −1 and zero-th order wave spectral moments, respectively) is provided in Figure 7
. The data are obtained from the ERA-Interim database (of the ECMWF) and cover the period 1979–2013.
3.3. Ecological Characteristics
The MS is characterized by high-level biodiversity, with a high percentage of endemic species [101
]. The variable topography of the basin and the climatic and hydrologic conditions of its ecosystems allow the presence of both temperate and subtropical species. Specifically, the basin hosts between 4% and 18% of the world’s marine species, many of which are endemic to the Mediterranean [109
]. The Western Mediterranean hosts the greatest diversity of sea turtles, marine mammals, and seabird life [97
The MS contains sensitive deep-sea, pelagic, and coastal habitats, intact shorelines, estuaries, underwater canyons, coralligenous assemblages, along with 150 important wetlands for birds, and around 5000 islands and islets; see [100
]. The most important coastal habitats are sea grass ecosystems with the endemic Posidonia Oceanica
meadows having the highest economic and ecologic value. They cover about 50,000 km2
of both sandy and rocky areas of the MS, reaching depths up to 45 m. Meadows of Posidonia Oceanica
are important nursery areas for fish, supporting 25% of the MS fish species. They also have a major role in maintaining seashore stability. Along with Zostera Marina
, Posidonia oceanica
sea grass is considered endangered species, facing a number of pressures from human activities [97
Numerous protected areas (marine and coastal) are established in the MS in order to mitigate the effects of pressures on the fauna, flora, habitats as well as the biodiversity of the basin. Protected areas are considered as very effective tools for management and conservation purposes. According to the Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA), conservation areas of high priority and of ecological significance are found mostly in the Gulf of Lion, the Gibraltar and Sicily Straits, and the Adriatic, Ionian, north Aegean and Levantine Seas [113
]. A review on the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the MS has been presented in [114
], while a very detailed update for 2016 has been provided in [115
]. According to [115
], at the Mediterranean basin level, the total surface under protection status is 179,798 km2
, comprising 1231 MPAs and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures, 186 MPAs of national status, 898 marine Natura 2000 sites, 3 General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) Fisheries Restricted Areas, and the Pelagos Sanctuary for marine mammals. Spain has the largest amount of small MPAs, while in Italy there are many medium-sized MPAs. The largest MPAs are off the coast of Greece and Turkey. MPAs have core zones in which specific regulations either prohibit or control non-consumptive and consumptive (commercial, recreational, or spear fishing) activities. In the core zones of most MPAs, consumptive activities are prohibited, while in the secondary zones, non-consumptive and consumptive uses are allowed or conditionally allowed, respectively [116
3.4. Oceanographic Characteristics
Characteristics of the sea surface layer are continuously modified due to mixing processes. The Mediterranean surface layer presents a longitudinal salinity gradient ranging from 36.2 psu near Gibraltar to 38.6 psu in the Levantine basin [97
]. In Figure 8
, the spatial distribution of mean annual surface salinity in the Mediterranean basin is presented for the period 1987–2013 obtained from the Mediterranean Forecasting System reanalysis [118
]. For details as regards salinity and temperature aspects in the MS, see [119
Surface temperature is clearly higher in the eastern than in the western sub-basin. The warmest surface waters are found in the Ionian Sea (19.5–21 °C) and the Levantine basin (20–22 °C), and the coldest in the Gulf of Lion (17–19 °C) [121
]. The intermediate layer lies between 200 m and 800 m and its temperature varies from 13 °C to 15.5 °C. The deep layer covers the depths between the intermediate layer and the bottom. The Western Mediterranean Deep Water has a mean temperature of 12.7 °C and the Eastern has a mean temperature of 13.6 °C [97
]. In Figure 9
, the spatial distribution of the mean annual sea temperature at 5 m (upper panel) and 1000 m (lower panel) below sea surface in the Mediterranean basin is presented for the period 2000–2015. The temperature data are obtained from the aggregated products of the Pan-European infrastructure for ocean and marine data management (SeaDataNet) [122
], and analyzed by HCMR using the Data-Interpolating Variational Analysis (DIVA) software tool [123
]. It is evident that the relevant temperature gradients at the particular depths are rather low compared to tropical and subtropical regions of the world ocean.
3.5. Relevant Economic Activities
Tourism constitutes a substantial part of the Mediterranean economy and is a major pillar of local economies, serving as a significant source of employment [97
]. It offers employment (11.5% of total employment in 2014) and economic growth (11.3% of regional GDP); for the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, tourism represents over 70% in terms of Production Value and Gross Value Added [124
]. The Mediterranean region is the most preferable tourist destination, attracting one-third of the world’s international tourists (for 2011, 306 million out of 980 million arrivals worldwide), while it is expected to reach 500 million tourists in 2030 [124
]. The majority of tourists visiting the Mediterranean are of European origin, while domestic tourists also make a significant contribution. Tourism in Mediterranean countries is coastal oriented, with up to 90% of tourists visiting coastal areas. It is also particularly seasonal, as it increases dramatically during July and August. Detailed studies as regards tourism in the Mediterranean basin can be found in [124
3.5.2. Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Fish Farming
Fisheries are another important economic sector of the Mediterranean countries that are related with offshore renewables. Fisheries constitute a vital component of the Mediterranean economy, accounting for about 220,000 jobs (directly employed on fishing vessels) [126
]. The diverse morphology of the basin as well as the high proportion of small-scale commercial fishing (over 85% of the Mediterranean fishing fleet) are two important sustainability factors. Fishing in the MS usually takes place in depths ranging from 10 m to 800 m (mainly up to 400 m) and is mostly concentrated in inshore areas. Fishing may also take place on the continental slope, while deep-water areas are currently not exploited. Among Mediterranean fisheries, 80% are currently attributable to five countries, including Greece, Spain, and Italy [125
Aquaculture and fish farming in the MS has a great contribution in meeting increasing demand for fishery products in the coastal nations. During the past decades, the Mediterranean aquaculture has expanded dramatically mostly due to the ideal physical characteristics of the Mediterranean marine environment as well as the proximity to viable markets. In [127
], it has been mentioned that since 1970, the sector grows at a rate of around 9% per year. As has been noted in [128
], Greece, Turkey, and Spain are the main producers of seabream and seabass, and maintain a share of ~80% of the world production. More detailed data on Mediterranean aquaculture and fish farming can be found in the recent report of FEAP (Federation of European Aquaculture Producers) [129
3.5.3. Maritime Transport
Maritime transport is another important economic activity in the MS. According to the latest data published by Eurostat, with reference to ports of all EU Member States, the greatest number of passengers embarked or disembarked during 2015 refer to Italian and Greek ports [130
]. The ports of Valencia and Algeciras (in Spain) and the port of Piraeus (in Greece) rank fifth, sixth, and eighth, respectively, as regards the volume of containers handled; while the ports of Algeciras, Marseille (in France), and Valencia rank fifth, sixth and ninth respectively, as regards the gross weight of goods handled. A detailed overview of the Mediterranean ship traffic for 2014, based on AIS signals, has been provided in [131
]. In the same source, it is also highlighted that the MS is one of the busiest waterways of the world; 21 ports of the MS are among the 100 world top ports, while the maritime transport sector provides 550,000 direct jobs.
A detailed assessment of the most important economic sectors in the MS (maritime transport, fisheries and tourism) was made in the context of the Medtrends project [131
]; see also [125
]. Regularly updated statistics for all important economic sectors of the EU Member States can be found in [132
3.6. Energy Status and Scenarios
As regards the recent situation of energy efficiency in the Mediterranean based on the MEDENER/OME report [133
], the following facts can be mentioned for 2013: (i) the final energy consumption for the Mediterranean was 690 Mtoe (442 Mtoe for the Northern countries of the MS); (ii) the Mediterranean power generation was 1994 TWh (1354 TWh for the Northern countries of the MS); (iii) RES in total energy demand had 13% share for the northern MS and 6% for the southern MS. Let us note that the Southern Mediterranean region includes Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey, while the Northern Mediterranean region includes Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, and Spain, which are modelled as individual countries, and Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, which are considered as one model.
Forecasting scenarios for the Mediterranean energy, apart from the Conservative Scenario (CS) that considers previous trends and current policies and has a rather moderate approach as regards planned programs, take also into account the Energy Transition Scenario (TS). In the latter scenario, mature RE technologies, energy efficiency programs and integration of renewables to the energy mix are assumed, leading to a more ambitious scenario as regards development of RES projects in the Mediterranean. Based on the CS, the trend for final energy consumption in the MS is to be increased by 37.2% and 58% for 2030 and 2040, respectively, while the forecast for the TS is 12.5% and 21.2%, respectively, with both scenarios giving a higher Mtoe for the Southern MS. Regarding the electricity generation for the Mediterranean, the CS projects higher increased rates (48.6% for 2030 and 77.5% for 2040) compared to the TS (12.9% for 2030 and 22.1% for 2040) with respect to 2013; see also Figure 10
. The share of renewables is expected to triple (39% for the Northern MS and 16% for the Southern MS) based on the TS while lower percentages are expected with the CS (23% for the Northern MS and 7% for the Southern MS).
From Figure 11
, based on data published by Eurostat, it is evident that there is an increase of the renewable energy share in the gross final energy consumption between 2004 and 2015 for the Northern Mediterranean countries. Among these EU countries, Slovenia had the highest share of renewable energy (22%) in 2015, Malta presented the highest relative change from 2004 to 2015, Italy has already surpassed its national binding target by little, while France has a long distance to cover yet until the final target of 2020.
An overview of electricity statistics for individual EU-Mediterranean countries is presented in Table 1
by using monthly (for 2016) and annual (for 2014 and 2015) cumulated production and supply data from Eurostat. The total amount of energy consumption is calculated as the sum of the total net production and imports minus exports and electricity absorbed by pumping (not shown here). The highest percentage of electricity supply between 2015 and 2016 is observed for Cyprus (7.5%) and the lowest for Italy (−2.1%). Slovenia exhibits the highest percentage of total net production for the same years (8.8%), while Cyprus and Greece have a steady increase of electricity generated during the triennial period examined.
5. A Roadmap for MRE Development in the Mediterranean Sea
The importance of uninterrupted availability of affordable MRE sources is highlighted by the rapidly increasing need to replace fossil fuels with sustainable energy. The maturity of the wind energy market, the existing advanced technology and the proven economic viability of offshore wind production in the North Sea render offshore wind the most promising MRE form for the Mediterranean in the near future. Offshore wind energy is currently gaining ground in the MS since it seems to be the most suitable for the area among MRE forms as regards resource availability.
Financial stability and application of effective financing tools, governance support, enhancing and centralizing of permitting bodies’ capacity, the rationalization and simplification of licensing and permitting procedures, and improvement of policy frameworks are considered key issues for facilitating and boosting MRE development in the area. For example, the application of joint actions and procedures when developing infrastructures relevant to MRE projects (grid network, ports, etc.) at the basin level may significantly facilitate its development. This, in turn, requires (i) the revision of national policies and environmental, socio-economic, technical, and legislative considerations; and (ii) the harmonization and integration of national, regional, and transnational policies (at least for the EU Member States) in order to mitigate the problem of conflicting regulations and legislations that hinders the development of activities occurring in overlapping political spaces.
For the sustainable development of MRE in the MS, negative experience and examples may be also of value. In [306
], it has been proven that the absence of both strategic design and effective legislative/regulation framework, combined with misinterpretations as regards onshore wind farm development in Greece, leads to “…anarchic applications for the development of electricity power plants from renewable energy sources…”.
A roadmap for Blue Energy (BE) development in Europe has been described in detail in [6
] and [307
]. Specific recommendations as regards technical, environmental and socio-economic aspects relevant to MRE development in the MS are provided below.
5.2. Technical Recommendations
Since the existing wave and tidal/current devices are designed for harsher environments than the MS in order to effectively utilize moderate resources (short-crested waves with rather low wave heights, slower tidal currents) in an economically viable way, there is need for a tailor-made range of concepts, namely smaller WECs and smaller TECs well adapted to the Mediterranean conditions and the available resource. Currently, the lack of mature technologies in WECs and the limited wave and tidal/current energy render the commercial and geographically extended development of these MRE forms in the basin unlikely for the next years. Onshore wave devices may be a rational solution for the already existing infrastructure (breakwaters, seawalls, dams, bridges, etc.) [6
]. Based on the provided MRE potential estimates, it seems that today only offshore wind energy (and in few specific locations tidal/current energy) meets the requirements for commercial development. Nevertheless, there is currently a discussion as regards combined exploitation of marine wind and wave energy by using collocated, hybrid, and island systems. For the Mediterranean case, the available wave resource is weak and therefore, the combined wind and wave energy resource is also weak [61
]. The potential sites that such a synergy can be implemented is the Gulf of Lion, the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea and the sea area between Sicily and Tunisia.
Although any discussion about potential application of OTECs in the MS is currently unlikely, in [308
], it has been proposed that the temperature difference between the atmosphere and the sea water may be utilized since it is comparable to the corresponding water temperature differences in a tropical region. Regarding salinity gradient energy, since most of the river mouths in the Mediterranean coasts are environmentally protected areas, potential attempts for installations in these areas are expected to be intensively confronted. Fulfilling our knowledge gaps as regards OTEC and salinity gradient energy potential in the Mediterranean is a priority in order to realistically discuss their perspectives in the basin.
Overall, BE industries of the Mediterranean should either invest in the development of new technologies or adapt existing ones in order to provide tailor-made solutions for BE exploitation in the area. According to [6
], other focus areas that should be addressed for technology development refer to testing and modelling (validation of concepts and demonstration of installations in real conditions), reliability and survivability (development of real-time monitoring systems to identify potential failure during the operation), installation and logistics (utilization of existing infrastructure), power generation and grid and standardization of the industry leading to certification.
Another important issue refers to the lack of in situ met-ocean measurements and long-term simulation results obtained from numerical models of high spatial resolution. In particular, the estimation of offshore wind energy characteristics should be made at the offshore WT hub height, while the wind profile should be accurately estimated by utilizing measured wind data obtained by meteorological masts or Lidar measurements. The detailed evaluation of the model results, especially in the nearshore/coastal areas, is also necessary in order to assess the accuracy, performance, and homogeneity of the numerical simulations.
5.3. Environmental Recommendations
Some recommendations relevant with OWF development in the MS have been provided by the COCONET project [149
]; see also [107
]. It was acknowledged that more detailed information on the environmentally sensitive marine areas at depths 0–200 m is required. The more accurate identification of important habitats, coralligenous, and deep-water white coral formations, is necessary for the efficient planning in the MS. The current lack of mapped bird migration routes is an additional information gap for the offshore wind sector. Taking into consideration the COCONET findings, some general recommendations as regards the interactions of MRE development and environmental issues are summarized below.
In the areas scheduled for MRE development, there is need to screen and map the existing habitats and the distributions of important species, as well as the surrounding water volumes and the sea bottom areas so as to avoid impacts on biodiversity. In this respect, monitoring campaigns are necessary before and during construction, operation and decommissioning of MRE installations in order to enrich knowledge as regards long-term environmental effects and the acting of the installations as stepping stones across MPAs. The monitoring programs shall be standardized in order to assess marine biota shifts, create baseline inventories and identify thresholds so as to understand and predict future changes in marine biodiversity due to the MRE installations. An efficient means to fulfil this task is by utilizing pilot sites before MRE development in order to study and assess actual environmental impacts in the surrounding environment. The installation of the main components of a structure might allow the prediction of the impacts as if the whole structure was deployed. In this way, the study of the potential environmental effects in the far- and near-field environment and the optimization and adjustment of the MRE installation will be considerably facilitated.
EIA studies should be followed by consultation of the general public, local authorities, organizations concerned and any stakeholder involved in the MRE project in order to be realistic and of actual value. A necessary, yet overlooked, part of the EIA studies is the simulation of the potential impacts of MRE installations on the local geophysical/oceanographic characteristics (wave propagation, circulation, sediment equilibrium, coastal morphodynamics, etc.). Finally, there is need to review and share the knowledge from the implementation of important EU directives (Marine Strategy Framework Directive, EIA, and the Habitats and Birds Directive) for enabling more consistent approaches across Mediterranean EU Member States, especially in cross-border cooperation issues. This is necessary since the directives as regards licensing and consenting processes for MRE development are often integrated in a non-homogeneous way into the national legislations.
5.4. Socio-Economic Recommendations
Taking advantage of the existing experience from northern European countries and France, regarding OWF development in the Mediterranean, there is need to promote floating structures as a rational solution for the offshore wind exploitation in the area. This shift may also contribute to the mitigation of potential environmental effects. Another urgent necessity is to increase the likelihood of social acceptance for MRE development in an area. This can be achieved in several ways, such as:
Combining other beneficial economic activities with the operation of MRE plants (e.g., the underwater structures of WTs or other MRE devices can be used to farm filtering bivalves or provide space for commercial fish, mimicking artificial reefs) in order to minimize fears and prejudices. These activities might become part of the compensations offered to the local communities.
Raising environmental awareness of the local communities through informational campaigns and by making explicit the pros and cons of each MRE plant; the advantages for the local communities must be realistically stated, along with proposed compensation measures.
Providing proper and accurate information of stakeholders about the economic implications of MRE installations on tourism.
Performing detailed socio-economic valuation surveys during the design phase of MRE projects, with consultation processes for any relevant application, focusing on stakeholders.
Finally, the lack of MSP is expected to raise conflict of interests among different user groups. Creating the conditions to rationally exploit the benefits of MRE development in the MS and mitigating the expected social conflicts is highly dependent and interrelated with the development of MSP and ICZM at the regional/local level. These issues, combined with EIA studies of actual and realistic value, and rational regulation of the uses of the same ocean space constitute key drivers towards MRE sustainability in the Mediterranean basin. The management of marine, maritime, and coastal space must be accomplished in an integrative fashion in order to acquire a complete picture of all existing, scheduled, and foreseen human activities, and associated threats to environmental integrity and, most of all, to maximize its value.
5.5. Roadmap Summary
The schematic representation of the roadmap for MRE development in the MS is depicted in Figure 15
and, based on the above discussion, the key points of this roadmap are summarized as follows:
Perform in situ metocean measurements and acquire long-term simulation results from numerical models of high spatial resolution, especially in the nearshore/coastal areas
Simulate the potential impacts of MRE installations on the local geophysical/oceanographic characteristics
Acquire detailed information on the environmentally sensitive marine areas and habitats at depths 0–200 m
Map bird migration routes to facilitate the development of offshore wind sector
Screen and map the existing habitats and the distributions of important species
Design and implementation of monitoring campaigns before and during construction, operation, and decommissioning of MRE installations.
Invest in the development of new technologies or adapt existing ones in order to provide tailor-made solutions for MRE exploitation in an economically viable way
Support onshore wave devices as a rational solution for the already existing infrastructure
Consider synergy of offshore wind and wave energy at carefully selected sites
Promote offshore wind energy that is mature to meet the requirements for commercial development
Promote floating structures as a rational solution for offshore wind exploitation and as a measure to mitigate potential environmental effects.
Perform EIA studies of actual and realistic value followed by consultation of the general public, local authorities, organizations concerned, and any stakeholder involved in the MRE project
Review and share the knowledge from the implementation of important EU directives for enabling more consistent approaches across Mediterranean EU Member States, especially in cross-border cooperation issues
Increase the likelihood of social acceptance for MRE development by several means (combining other beneficial economic activities with the operation of MRE plants, raising environmental awareness of the local communities through informational campaigns, providing proper and accurate information of stakeholders about the economic implications of MRE installations on tourism, performing detailed socio-economic valuation surveys during the design phase of MRE projects focusing on stakeholders).
State level recommendations
Develop MSP and ICZM at the regional/local level for establishing a holistic management of marine, maritime, and coastal activities in the ocean space
Strengthen financial stability, application of effective financing tools, governance support, enhancing and centralizing of permitting bodies’ capacity, rationalization, and simplification of licensing and permitting procedures, improvement of policy frameworks
Revise (if necessary) national policies and environmental, socio-economic, technical, and legislative considerations
Harmonize and integrate national, regional, and transnational policies (at least for the EU Member States) in order to mitigate the problem of conflicting regulations and legislations.