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Offshore renewable energy

The Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act 2021 (OEI Act) provides a licensing scheme to enable the construction, operation and decommissioning of offshore renewable energy projects in Commonwealth waters covering offshore fixed and floating wind, wave and tidal power, and other technologies.

The OEI Act, provides NOPSEMA with the role and functions of the Offshore Infrastructure Regulator (the Regulator). The Regulator has primary responsibility for work health and safety, environmental management, infrastructure integrity and financial security for offshore infrastructure activities. The Regulator also provides guidance and advice on how to comply with the regulatory requirements.

The extension of NOPSEMA’s functions to become the Regulator recognises its existing expertise and experience in the regulation of large scale, technically complex offshore energy infrastructure activities.

The Regulator will also provide specialist technical advice to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment to support the assessment of offshore renewable energy proposals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, including Australia’s first major offshore wind project (Star of the South).

Developers are encouraged to engage with the Regulator early on in the project planning phase. If you would like further information about the regime or wish to clarify regulatory requirements contact offshorerenewables@nopsema.gov.au.

The offshore electricity infrastructure legislative framework applies to offshore locations from three nautical miles off the coast to the boundary of Australia’s exclusive economic zone, with coastal waters remaining the responsibility of the adjacent state and Northern Territory governments.

Under the  legislative framework, the federal Minister for Energy (the Minister) makes all licensing decisions. This includes declaring offshore areas suitable for renewable energy infrastructure, both at a commercial scale and for research and development of new and emerging technologies. The declaration of an offshore area is informed through consultation with stakeholders including existing marine users, state governments and Australian Government agencies with responsibilities in the Commonwealth marine area.

The legislative framework upholds the principle of shared use of the marine environment providing regulatory and investment certainty through security of tenure and protections for offshore infrastructure.

The Offshore Infrastructure Registrar (the Registrar) is responsible for administering the licensing scheme, including assessing licence applications, and making recommendations to the Minister. The allocation of licences in a declared area is merit-based and includes an assessment of technical and financial capability and the overall suitability of the project. The OEI Act provides the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator with the role and functions of the Registrar.

Regulatory process map

Offshore electricity infrastructure framework regulatory process map

Further information about offshore electricity infrastructure legislative framework is available at industry.gov.au.

The functions of the Regulator will be fully cost recovered through a combination of fees and levies collected from regulated entities. A fully cost recovered regime allows the Regulator to deliver high quality regulatory services and ensure the costs of administering the regulatory framework are borne by industry.

Offshore wind energy is harnessed by taking advantage of the force of sea winds. The wind turns the large propellor-like blades of a turbine around a rotor spinning a generator and creating electricity. For more information see the offshore wind energy brochure

The global offshore wind sector has undergone rapid expansion in recent years with major advances in technology and cost reductions, making offshore wind an increasingly competitive option for large scale energy generation. Australia possesses world class offshore wind resources with the potential to attract significant investment. See the supply and demand potential for offshore wind energy in Australia for further insights.  

Wave power transports energy by ocean surface waves and captures that energy for electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water. Tidal power is a form of hydropower that converts the energy of tides into useful forms of power—namely electricity. Wave and tidal power technologies have received some support but are yet to attract the same level of investment and technological advancement as offshore wind.

Page last updated: November 26, 2021 3:35pm