Australia has 2,233 GW of ‘technically accessible resource’ in offshore wind and ‘a major barrier to investment and development’ with not having a regulatory framework that would facilitate it, according to a report from the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre.
The report identifies the 2.23 TW of the ‘technically accessible resource’ as the offshore wind potential in areas less than 100 kilometres from shore, in water depths less than 1000 metres, within 100 kilometres of substations and transmission lines, and excluding environmentally restricted areas.
The estimated technical resource is far in excess of current and projected electricity demand across the Australian electricity markets, according to the report.
However, the main obstacle that the country currently has in tapping into its vast ‘buildable’ offshore wind potential is that Australia still does not have a regulatory framework to enable timely permitting and leasing decisions for offshore renewable energy.
The Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre has called for establishing a regulatory regime for offshore renewable energy.
Consultation on a proposed regulatory framework for the Commonwealth Government has been occurring since early 2020, the report states.
Since offshore wind projects will typically cross Commonwealth and State jurisdictions, consideration needs to be given in the framework on the ways to provide complementary processes for activities that occur in both Commonwealth and State waters.
The report also recommends, among other things, that offshore wind should be incorporated into national and state energy planning, and that it should be recognised as a strategic resource for innovation and commercialisation funding.
Furthermore, the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre also recommends that the offshore wind permitting process should support the development of local supply chain capacity to maximise investment and jobs and community benefit.
Offshore wind can develop into a significant source of employment for offshore oil and gas workers and allow for diversification of coal export ports and employment in coal regions, the Centre states.
“Offshore wind has been an important source of alternative employment as Europe transitions to clean energy, especially the offshore oil and gas sector where the skills are often highly transferrable. Offshore wind can play an important role in a ‘just transition’ in Australia”, said Chris Briggs, Research Director from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.
The report also highlighted the need for detailed research to assess cost-benefits of offshore wind to energy, environmental and social systems, as part of the country’s effort necessary to reap the benefits of offshore wind.