The UK seabed manager The Crown Estate has postponed the Round 4 offshore wind lease awards from 2021 to spring 2022 due to delays in the bidding procedure.
Round 4 seeks to identify at least 7GW of new offshore wind projects in UK waters and is expected to shortly complete the ITT Stage 1 which assesses the financial and technical robustness of proposed offshore wind projects, submitted by already pre-qualified bidders.
The Crown Estate has extended the time taken to complete this stage, in order to clarify requirements with bidders.
Previously planned for the autumn, ITT Stage 2 is now due to begin in November, with the multi-cycle bidding process expected to follow in early in 2021.
Once bidding cycles are concluded, the Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) stage will commence. Estimated to take between nine twelve months, this assessment will be undertaken by The Crown Estate, in its role as a Competent Authority, and will consider the possible impacts of Round 4 on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance.
Subject to the outcome of the HRA, the projects could secure their seabed leasing rights in spring 2022 and once consented through the statutory planning process, the Round 4 projects could begin generating power by the end of the decade, The Crown Estate said.
“Today’s announcement updates our intended timeline for the final stretch of our tender, ensuring we can maintain a fair, robust and transparent process,” Jonny Boston, Business Development Manager at The Crown Estate, said.
“With Round 4’s continued progress, the UK offshore wind portfolio is poised to play a critical role in unlocking our national Net Zero ambition, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with bidders and stakeholders through the next stage.”