Offshore Wind Power in Europe & Asia: Is a Single Regulatory Model Emerging?

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)’s 2021 report to the G-20 on the progress and prospects for offshore renewable energy records that the cost of offshore wind fell markedly across multiple markets between 2010 and 2020.

High deployment rates and innovations such as increasing turbine size, have contributed to the increasing competitiveness of offshore wind. In addition, appropriate policy and regulation is identified by IRENA as crucial in helping offshore wind increase competitiveness.

Recognising this, on 23 February the Institute for Climate Energy and Disaster Solutions (ICEDS) at the Australian National University held a seminar on Offshore Wind Power in Europe & Asia: Is a Single Regulatory Model Emerging? Participants in the seminar heard from key experts in Australia, Asia-Pacific and Europe on recent legal and regulatory developments in offshore wind.

Speakers were Anton Ming-Zhi Gao (Presentation), Professor of Law at the National Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Law for Science and Technology, Taiwan, Ignacio Herrera Anchustegui (Presentation), Associate Professor of Law at the University of Bergen, Norway, Tina Soliman Hunter (Presentation), Professor of Energy and Resources Law, Macquarie University, and Llewelyn Hughes (Presentation), Associate Professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

Taiwan is a leading market for offshore wind in the Asia Pacific region. Professor Gao noted that despite this there are important deficiencies in the legal and regulatory regime supporting offshore wind deployment, including in relation to Marine Spatial Planning, the design of the Feed-in-Tariff that provides an economic incentive for offshore wind project developers, and the Local Content Requirements project proponents are required to adhere to. He further noted that streamlining of the regulatory model is an option to improve Taiwan’s current legal and policy framework for offshore wind power, highlighting Germany as a potential model.

While Europe has led the world in the development of offshore wind, Professor Anchustegui noted the Norwegian market remains immature despite the presence of excellent wind resources. A key reason for this, he argued, is that the legal and regulatory regime supporting offshore wind was established late, and remains immature. The estimated time for project development is also in the region of 8 to 10 years, creating little incentive to develop the industry. Professor Anchustegui proposed that one option is through sector coupling, enabling offshore wind to power offshore oil and gas facilities in Norway. The legal and regulatory regime in this case would differ, which would reduce lead times while enabling the industry to develop.

The Australian federal government passed the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act in November 2021, which provides greater certainty to offshore wind project proponents through creating a series of licenses for exploration and development activities. Professor Hunter argued that there are nevertheless a number of deficiencies in the current legislation. Notably, commonwealth waters do not include the area from short to three nautical miles, meaning there is a risk of regulatory overlaps and gaps in the absence of coordination between federal and state agencies. She also identified concerns with the lack of detail on Marine Spatial Planning, environment and safety regulations, and Native Title. Some of these details may become available through regulation and policy that is under development.

Finally, Professor Hughes described recent research results from a study that asked experts  in offshore wind in the Asia Pacific about their views on policies that would support lower costs for fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind technologies. He noted that respondents focused on the importance of policy targets as a way of providing certainty to developers about the project pipeline, and the need for greater streamlining of laws and policies in order to reduce compliance costs and regulatory risk. The findings were consistent with the other panelists’ views about the uncertainty in current legal regimes governing the offshore wind sector.

The seminar was supported by the Strategic Partnerships for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and co-funded by the European Union. The opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the speakers.

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