Australian Government Moves Forward with Setting Up Offshore Wind Regulations

Australian Government has launched public consultation on draft regulations for the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (OEI) framework, which will enable the development of offshore electricity infrastructure, including offshore wind and electricity transmission projects, in Commonwealth waters. 

The country’s first OEI framework is enabled by legislation introduced in late 2021, when Australia’s Parliament endorsed a package of new laws, including the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 which allows the government to designate areas in Commonwealth waters and the accompanying Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Bill 2021 which allows for the imposition of levies on regulated entities to recover the regulatory costs.

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The draft OEI regulations set out crucial arrangements to allow the framework to become operational, including the licencing scheme, fees and levies, according to the Government, which states that this legislative framework will encourage investment in offshore renewable energy projects. 

Launched on 22 March and running for 30 days, this is the first stage of consultation on the framework, through which the Government is seeking input on drafts of the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Regulations 2022, Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Regulations 2022, and Cost Recovery Implementation Statement.

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 and the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Act 2021 will commence by 2 June 2022, according to information on the website of Australia’s Ministry for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction.

“Today’s release of the supporting regulations for the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure legislative framework marks an important next step in supporting a new offshore industry in Australia”, said Angus Taylor, Australia’s Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction.

This will also accelerate projects already under development such as Star of the South and the Marinus Link transmission line, which will connect the mainland to Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation project, according to Minister Taylor.

Star of the South, Australia’s first offshore wind project, has welcomed the launch of the latest consultation process, saying that it is a welcome sign that the government is serious about facilitating offshore wind development.

“We welcome the first stage of regulations and acknowledge the extensive work by the Australian Government to date – this is great progress”, Star of the South stated. “We look forward to participating in the government consultation process, to provide feedback on timely, fit for purpose, and appropriately staged regulations and oversight”.

The 2.2 GW offshore wind farm is proposed to be built off the south coast of Gippsland in Victoria.

Along with the most advanced project, there are several other offshore wind plans for Australia’s waters.

In December 2021, Australian renewable energy company Alinta Energy revealed plans for a 1,000 MW wind farm offshore Portland in southwestern Victoria, which would supply electricity to the Portland Aluminium Smelter and the east coast grid.

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The same month, Spain-based BlueFloat Energy and Australia’s Energy Estate, which partnered to develop offshore wind projects in New Zealand and Australia earlier, revealed the first three offshore wind farms they are developing in Australia. The projects, which have a total installed capacity of 4.3 GW, include one bottom-fixed and two floating wind farms.

Furthermore, a company founded in 2020 by two of the co-founders of the Star of the South, is planning to build five offshore wind projects in the country.

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Earlier this month, Denmark’s Copenhagen Energy set in motion the plan to develop an offshore wind farm with a capacity in excess of 3 GW off Western Australia.

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Photo: Illustration; Source: Star of the South Wind Farm