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In Australia, as with other countries across the globe, we are facing an urgent need to shift our electricity generation requirements from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Offshore wind and underwater transmission connections will, arguably, be an essential component for emissions reduction and electricity generation for our country.

In light of this and the introduction of a new federal regulatory framework, our Y4C team have put together a Research Brief on 'Offshore Electricity Infrastructure in Australia: Regulatory Reform and Commercial Opportunities'.

The following key points are made in the Brief:

  1. The proliferation of offshore wind energy will play a major role in decarbonising Australia’s electricity generation, it will introduce thousands of new jobs, and provide vast commercial opportunities that will enable Australia to become a major global player in the sector.
  2. Through the new Offshore Act, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) will be appointed as registrar and regulator of the offshore electrification framework. 
  3. The granting of licences must be done in accordance with a licensing scheme, which is absent from the Offshore Bill itself and left to subsequent regulations. That being said, the Offshore Bill sets out criteria for each licence.
  4. The decommissioning and financial security provisions introduced by the Offshore Bill present licencholders with important and serious obligations, some of which are subject to civil penalties. 
  5. The Offshore Bill does not take a proactive approach to environmental protection, beyond the management plan compliance provision, instead focusing on remediating environmental damage once already done. This leaves scope for significant improvements to be made, and can be done through further regulation. 
  6. Offshore electricity infrastructure projects could present circumstances wherein local communities, and the rights of indigenous people might not be wholly understood or considered under the Offshore Bill. The Australian Government should continue to adapt our laws to ensure certainty for these groups of people by defining key terms and identifying how assessments are made when such rights and interests are infringed upon.
  7. The existing WHS legislative framework does not adequately address the risks inherent in activities such as the transportation and construction of massive wind turbine infrastructure in offshore environments, often subject to extreme weather events. There is ample opportunity for the Government to rectify these issues.
  8. Australia has the potential to be a leading nation in the offshore energy industry. As the nation with the sixth largest wind resources, wind turbine energy now generates almost 10% of Australia’s electricity, approximately 19,525 GWh, or just over a third of all power generated from renewable sources.
  9. The UK has the world’s largest number of offshore wind installations, nearing approximately 30 per cent. Their regulatory scheme for offshore wind is both pioneering and successful. As such, there are many lessons Australia can take from the UK experience going forward.