Crown Estate Scotland has confirmed that it will not be launching the much anticipated ScotWind offshore wind leasing programme in October as was originally planned
The ScotWind leasing process will pave the way for the development of the next round of offshore wind projects in Scottish waters.
In a statement, Crown Estate Scotland said, “To ensure that developers and stakeholders have the right information, at the right time to aid decision making, Crown Estate Scotland has confirmed plans to hold the launch of ScotWind Leasing after publication of Marine Scotland’s draft Sectoral Marine Plan (SMP), which is expected in autumn 2019.”
Crown Estate Scotland said aligning timescales with the SMP “will help to ensure maximum transparency and fairness from the beginning of the process and give all stakeholders confidence that they can take well-founded decisions.”
As a result of this, ScotWind leasing will not launch in October 2019, as had initially been targeted, but will launch as soon as is practical following the publication of the draft SMP.
The deadline for applications will be after the adopted SMP is published so that developers have certainty regarding the sites in the final plan.
Crown Estate Scotland head of energy and infrastructure John Robertson said, “It is critical that the leasing process is robust and transparent. The SMP will provide developers with certainty regarding the best locations for projects, so there are clear benefits in launching leasing after they have seen the draft version.
“In their feedback, our stakeholders have highlighted the importance of maximising certainty for developers who are awarded rights. Our approach and timings are designed to ensure a confident basis for the whole of the leasing round.”
Pinsent Masons partner Alan Cook said of the decision, "It is not really a surprise, as it would have been awkward for developers to bid for sites before the draft SMP had been issued.
"The pre-launch documentation issued by Crown Estate Scotland referred to the possibility that they might open the bids purely on the basis of the plan option areas being known and before the draft SMP itself was available, but our view has always been that this would have been a recipe for problems.
"Developers would have been undertaking due diligence and submitting bids, and perhaps been appointed as preferred bidder for a site, at stage when the draft SMP might then have ruled out particular areas.
"In seeking to ensure an option agreement is secured over a site that is most likely to be in the adopted SMP, bidders would wish to see much more than simply the plan option areas.
"For example, bidders would wish to have full details of any technical or environmental constraints or policies identified in the draft SMP that may influence whether their candidate sites make it into the adopted SMP.
"The process of producing the SMP has taken longer than had been expected and Crown Estate Scotland is simply acknowledging that their own ScotWind timescales have to be aligned accordingly."