Australia Introduces Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill

The government of Australia has introduced legislation that will allow offshore wind projects to be built in Commonwealth waters.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 will allow the government to designate Offshore Electricity Areas in Commonwealth waters more than three miles offshore.

The legislation will also create a licensing regime to permit exploration, construction, and operation of offshore renewable energy and transmission projects in these areas.

”An offshore electricity industry in Australia will further strengthen our economy, create jobs and opportunities for Australians, and enhance the delivery of affordable and reliable power,” Angus Taylor, Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, said.

”Offshore generation and transmission can deliver significant benefits to all Australians through a more secure and reliable electricity system, and create thousands of new jobs and business opportunities in regional Australia.”

The legislation covers infrastructure projects for offshore electricity transmission cables and offshore renewable energy generation, including offshore wind, and ensures co-existence with other users of the offshore area would be managed from the start, the government said.

The legislation is also said to safeguard the environment and require project developers to make financial commitments to properly decommission projects when they are no longer productive.

Under the legislation, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) will oversee licenses for offshore projects, while the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) will have oversight of ongoing operations and safety.

According to Friends of the Earth, there are now at least ten major offshore wind projects proposed around Australia, including the 2.2 GW Star of the South project proposed for Gippsland.

”This legalisation is a key step to realising Australia’s offshore wind potential and unlocking the associated economic benefits, including providing opportunities for the nation’s strong resources and maritime sectors,” Star of the South CEO, Casper Frost Thorhauge, said.

Star of the South will consider the detail of the Bill over the coming days but is pleased with the government’s strong commitment to work with industry to reduce regulatory barriers, enabling ongoing investment from the project’s partners Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.

”The Australian Government has shown leadership in removing barriers to investment in technology that will reduce emissions, create regional jobs, and provide affordable and reliable power to Australians,” Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners Partner, Michael Hannibal, said.

”We look forward to the legislation being passed and thank the Australian Government for its support to develop a new offshore wind market.Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners has been instrumental in commercialising offshore wind globally, and we are motivated to bring these benefits to Australia, starting with Star of the South.”

According to Star of the South, offshore wind represents a strong economic opportunity for Australia with modelling demonstrating an estimated 3,000 direct jobs and more than AUD 10 billion of wider economic benefits resulting from 2.2GW of offshore wind in Gippsland – primarily in regional Australia.

Photo: Image for illustrative purposes only. Source: Vattenfall