Australia Passes Legislation to Develop Offshore Wind Energy Industry

Australia supports developement of offshore wind farms
(file photo)

Published Nov 25, 2021 3:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia is set to become the next country to incorporate offshore wind energy into its efforts to expand the supply of renewable power. After years of advocacy by environmentalists, Parliament on November 25 approved a series of laws to support the offshore electricity infrastructure, while at the state level funding is being provided to support feasibility studies and pre-construction development for projects proposed for Australia’s southern coast. 

“The offshore electricity infrastructure package will unlock development of a new industry,” said Australia’s Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor after the three bills passed the final stage in the Senate establishing the regulatory framework for offshore electricity infrastructure projects.  The minister highlighted that the legislation will accelerate several key projects, but “importantly, this framework enables the development of these new energy projects while safeguarding the environment, securing the health and safety of workers and protecting other maritime stakeholders.”

Known as the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021 the legislation was designed to facilitate and regulate the development of electricity infrastructure in Australian waters. In addition to providing the government the ability to designate areas for offshore wind farm development, it also establishes the licensing and regulatory framework. Elements of the bills also provide for safety and protection zones to protect offshore electricity infrastructure, establish the Offshore Infrastructure Registrar, and address issues of work health, safety, and environmental concerns as well as compliance and enforcement powers.

This week, the southern state of Victoria also announced efforts to support the development of offshore wind energy projects. As part of the Energy Innovation Fund, the government will provide A$40 million (US$28.75 million) to support three of the first proposed offshore wind farms. The funding will help each company conduct studies to determine the exact location for their projects.

“This is the largest single offshore wind announcement in Australia’s history and places Victoria at the forefront of this pivotal new sector,” said Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio. “Offshore wind projects have the potential to create gigawatts of reliable, renewable energy and help us deliver on our ambitious target to halve emissions by 2030.”

The leading project is the Star of the South which will receive funding to support pre-construction development activities for an offshore wind farm with a proposed capacity of up to 2.2GW. Macquarie Group will receive also receive support to facilitate the initial development stages of a 1GW offshore wind farm and Flotation Energy will receive support for scoping studies and surveys for a 1.5GW offshore wind farm. If Star of the South is approved and proceeds to construction, the project could start construction as early as 2025 with full power toward the end of the decade.