The authorities responsible for managing the seabed in UK waters, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland, have revised plans for offshore wind leasing in waters off England, Wales and Scotland
In April 2019, the Crown Estate in the UK provided an update on its plans for a new round of offshore wind leasing, to be known as Round 4, and confirmed it would not launch Round 4 until October 2019.
The Crown Estate also confirmed it is exploring alternative options for the commercial assessment phase at invitation to tender, to introduce greater transparency for bidders and help inform their decisions on project location and option fee bid price. Industry sources suggest this is probably to avoid winning bids simply being ‘highest bidder wins.’
Round 4 will now be launched after the summer, and TCE will provide a further update before the summer break (presumably meaning June/July). It said it planned to introduce a new tender requirement to ensure projects are awarded across a minimum of three seabed regions, to help facilitate greater geographic diversity of the pipeline.
A further refinement to its proposals addresses the number of project bids per bidder, to provide the option to bid for up to five variations of site boundaries, anchored at each of five locations, totalling 25 possible site options. There will also be an increase to lease terms, in line with market support for this approach, from 50 to 60 years, sufficient for two project cycles.
The Crown Estate business development manager Jonny Boston said, “The latest refinements to Round 4 come as a direct result of listening closely to feedback we have received.”
Scotland’s first leasing round for offshore wind projects is likely to be launched in October 2019, although that is only an indicative timescale.
Crown Estate Scotland, the public body responsible for leasing Scotland’s seabed, said it anticipates that by October, applications for developments can start to be received. “This is our current intention but is not a firm commitment,” it said.
There will be a prelaunch mid-year which will provide further details about the leasing and ensure the people and organisations involved have the information they need ahead of the final launch. This aligns with previous commitments to ensure ScotWind leasing is launched in 2019.
In addition to a target launch date, Crown Estate Scotland has provided further information outlining the proposed process and timelines to help developers and communities gain a fuller understanding of the next steps.
The final timings of the leasing are directly linked to the development of Marine Scotland’s Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind. “Our preference is to launch ScotWind leasing once the Draft Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind has been published. We understand that Marine Scotland currently intends to publish the draft plan for consultation in Q3 2019, subject to continued discussions with stakeholders.
“We are trying to give useful detail that can help potential applicants prepare for the leasing launch and give wider stakeholders an insight into the application process for ScotWind leasing. The final process may differ from the outline we have given here but we believe this indicative information will be of assistance at this stage.”
The leasing process will formally get under way in October 2019 with the deadline for applications to Crown Estate Scotland between February and April 2020. Crown Estate Scotland would then offer option agreements to successful applicants following publication of the Final Sectoral Plan adopted by Scottish ministers, sometime between May and July 2020.