Australia’s offshore wind industry hailed a historic day on Thursday as the nation’s government tabled long-awaited crucial legislation needed to give the sector lift-off Down Under.
The team planning Australia’s first offshore wind farm – the 2.2GW Star of the South – were among those to swiftly welcome the introduction of the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill by energy minister Angus Taylor, whose passage many expect to open the floodgates to massive interest in the nation’s fledgling sector by global giants of the likes of Orsted, Equinor and Iberdrola that have driven growth elsewhere.
The bill will give the crucial legal and regulatory framework allowing developers to plan, build and operate wind farms, and transmit power to shore, in Australian federal waters, where current legislation is geared only around the offshore oil & gas sector.
Star of the South labelled the bill's tabling a historic moment and “a clear signal to the global offshore wind market that there is a strong appetite to establish a new industry in Australia”.
CEO Casper Thorhauge said: “We will look at the bill in detail to understand what it means for developing Star of the South off the coast of Gippsland.”
“This legislation 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, led by global player Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), is the most advanced of a clutch of projects looking at opportunities off Australia, widely viewed as having some of the best wind resources on the planet, especially off its southern shores.
The project off the state of Victoria – which hopes to power 1.2 million homes – is currently conducting key studies ahead of environmental and planning applications.
Others with big ambitions include Oceanex Energy, whose CEO Andy Evans – previously one of the pioneers of Star of the South – aims to advance a 10GW-plus portfolio of mainly floating projects off the Australian states of New South Wales, Western Australia and potentially Queensland, as well as neighbouring New Zealand.
Evans told Recharge earlier this year that the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill – which the industry has been awaiting for six years – will finally set a clear regulatory framework for marine renewables.
The bill was also welcomed by Australia’s Climate Council, which claimed it opens the way for the nation to become an “offshore wind superpower”.
“Australia’s wind capacity has been likened to the North Sea – an area that’s leading the world in offshore wind generation. Investing in and growing this industry is a no-brainer for Australia, but it needs to be done right,” said Climate Council CEO Madeline Taylor.
A study released in July by the country’s Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRS) found there are currently proposed offshore wind projects totaling 25GW in capacity, with the potential to play a major role in Australia's energy transition.
Energy minister Taylor said while introducing the bill: “A new offshore industry, enabled by this Bill, represents an important new opportunity for Australia.
“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.”
Tom Harries, renewable energy partner at energy and infrastructure insurance specialist Nardac, said the bill's introduction marks “another positive step to clearing the permitting route for offshore wind farms off the coast of Australia.
“[There are] still plenty of unknowns (route-to-market, demand, cost competitiveness, local stakeholder acceptance, supply chain) but we’ve seen these tumble in other markets once momentum builds.”