The Crown Estate in the UK has announced a revised timescale for the remaining stages of its Round 4 offshore wind leasing programme
Crown Estate said it is nearing the completion of the second of its three tender stages for Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 and has updated the intended timeline for the final tender stage. The main effect of doing so is to put back the award of agreements for lease by several months.
Round 4, which seeks to identify at least 7 GW of new offshore wind projects in UK waters, will shortly complete what is known as ITT Stage 1, which assesses the financial and technical robustness of proposed offshore wind projects, submitted by already pre-qualified bidders.
The Crown Estate has extended the time taken to complete this stage, to clarify requirements with bidders. It said this process has been important in ensuring a fair and robust assessment and will assist with the smooth delivery of ITT Stage 2.
The updated Round 4 timeline is as follows. ITT Stage 2 is now due to begin in November, with the multi-cycle bidding process expected to follow in early 2021. This timeframe will extend the preparation time for bidders and avoid bidding cycles potentially coinciding with the Christmas period.
Once bidding cycles are concluded, the Plan-Level Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) stage will commence. Estimated to take between 9 and 12 months, this assessment will be undertaken by The Crown Estate, in its role as a competent authority, and will consider the possible impacts of Round 4 on relevant nature conservation sites of European importance.
The Crown Estate went on to say, “We previously expected successful Round 4 projects to be awarded agreements for lease in 2021. We now expect that this could take place in Q2 2022, subject to the outcome of the HRA. Once consented through the statutory planning process, Round 4 projects could begin generating clean power by the end of the decade.”
In addition to the 10 GW of capacity already in operation, Leasing Round 4 will complement a strong pipeline of offshore wind development in UK waters, which includes a further 10 GW of projects committed and 18 GW in development or preplanning.
Additional capacity is also expected to come forward in Scottish waters, through leasing managed by Crown Estate Scotland, to further strengthen the UK’s offshore wind pipeline. Together, this leasing will help unlock capacity to meet the UK Government’s recently announced target of 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030.
“Deploying this capacity in a sustainable and co-ordinated way remains crucial,” said The Crown Estate. “Alongside leasing activity, we are working in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, to deliver The Offshore Wind Evidence and Change Programme.
“This collaborative programme aims to integrate environmental and societal considerations into the development of large-scale offshore wind development – helping to balance the range of needs offshore, and support clean, healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas.
The Crown Estate business development manager Jonny Boston said, “This announcement updates our intended timeline for the final stretch of our tender, ensuring we can maintain a fair, robust and transparent process.
“With Round 4’s continued progress, the UK offshore wind portfolio is poised to play a critical role in unlocking our national net-zero ambition, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with bidders and stakeholders through the next stage.”
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