Crown Estate Scotland confirms offshore wind leasing delay

Out-Law News | 27 Sep 2019 | 1:02 pm | 1 min. read

Scotland's planned offshore wind leasing round, ScotWind, will not get underway until Marine Scotland has published its draft Sectoral Marine Plan (SMP), Crown Estate Scotland (CES) has confirmed.

The delay to the process, which was expected to begin next month, is "not really a surprise", as the draft SMP will identify the areas in which offshore wind developers will be invited to bid for potential sites, according to renewable energy expert Alan Cook of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.

"The pre-launch documentation issued by CES 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," he said.

John Robertson

Head of energy and infrastructure, Crown Estate Scotland

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.

"Our view has always been that this would have been a recipe for problems, as developers would have been undertaking due diligence and submitting bids, and perhaps been appointed as preferred bidder for a site, at a 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 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," he said.

"The process of producing the SMP has taken longer than had been expected, and CES is now acknowledging that its own ScotWind timescales have to be aligned accordingly," he said.

Marine Scotland is expected to publish the draft SMP during the autumn. The first ScotWind leasing round will launch "as soon as is practical" following its publication, CES said. The deadline for applications will not be until after the SMP is finalised, "so that developers have certainty regarding the sites in the final plan", according to CES.

John Robertson, head of energy and infrastructure at CES, said: "It's 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," he said.

The Scottish government hopes that projects awarded seabed leasing rights through the first ScotWind auction will be ready to deploy from the late 2020s onwards, based on a 10 year development and construction cycle.

The Crown Estate, which manages leasing rights over the England and Welsh seabed, opened its latest leasing round earlier this month. Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4 is expected to deliver at least 7GB of new offshore wind projects in four 'bidding areas' in the waters around England and Wales.