Australia and Offshore Wind

23.09.21 By

Key Points:

What is offshore wind and what’s in it for Australia?

Offshore wind power is the energy taken from the force of the winds out at sea, captured by wind turbines, and supplied into the electricity grid to power homes and businesses. Like onshore wind and solar, it’s a form of renewable energy meaning it is clean, cheap, and reliable

Australia could be a global offshore wind superpower as our wind resources are among the world’s best, comparable to the North Sea between Britain and Europe – an area that’s leading the world in offshore wind generation. In fact, there is enough wind potential, just off Australia’s shores, to power our electricity grid several times over. If all the current proposed offshore wind farms were built, their combined energy capacity would be greater than all of Australia’s coal-fired power stations. 

If we were to embrace this clean energy industry and start building large projects in the next few years, Australia could create up to 8,000 jobs annually from 2030. Many of the jobs and economic opportunities would be created in regional areas like the Hunter Valley, Illawarra, Gladstone, Port Kembla, Newcastle, and Latrobe Valley that already have the energy infrastructure and skilled workforce. 

Offshore wind would also provide cheap energy for existing manufacturing and could boost local manufacturing by up to 25%. The industry would also attract private investment in new export industries such as renewable hydrogen and local wind turbine manufacturing. 

Unfortunately, much like Australia’s broader action on climate change, we are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to offshore wind.

What is the rest of the world doing?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has identified offshore wind energy as one of the “big three” in the energy scenarios – projected alongside on-shore wind and solar PV to be one of the main sources of electricity in the global clean energy transition. Many of Australia’s trading partners and strategic allies have set ambitious targets for offshore wind, including the UK, US, European Union, Korea, and Japan. In 2020, China was responsible for half of the world’s new offshore wind capacity. 

IN THE US 

Under the new Biden administration, the US has set an ambitious goal of building a massive 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes, create 135,000 jobs and avoid 78 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

IN THE UK 

The UK is the world leader in offshore wind, with more installed capacity than any other country. Already, offshore wind powers the equivalent of 4.5 million homes annually, generating over 10% of the UK’s electricity. The cost of new offshore wind has fallen by 50% since 2015 and it is now one of the lowest cost options for new power in the UK – cheaper than new gas and nuclear power. Between 2016 and 2021 nearly £19bn (over $35 billion AUD) has been invested into the industry and it supports thousands of jobs across the UK in manufacturing, project development, construction, and operations. The UK wants to power all homes with offshore wind energy by 2030.

Why isn’t Australia already a global leader in offshore wind?

Currently, Australia does not have any offshore wind farms or even a process for allowing them to be built. For years, investors, energy experts and Australian communities have been waiting years for a regulatory framework for the offshore wind industry, before any projects could proceed. In September 2021, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor finally tabled an offshore wind bill in Parliament

What projects are on the horizon for Australia?

There are currently 12 offshore wind projects that have been waiting for the offshore wind bill, before they can proceed. 

The most advanced project is off the coast of Gippsland in Victoria. The Star of the South wind farm has the potential to supply up to 20% of Victoria’s electricity needs. It is an ideal location for an offshore wind farm given that the project would connect into the Latrobe Valley, which is one of the strongest grid connection points in the east coast National Electricity Market (NEM) and the region already has an established local skilled workforce.

“I find myself in an interesting place working in a coal-fired power station while advocating for renewable energy, like solar and wind. But the transition to clean energy is inevitable”

Tony Wolfe, Latrobe Valley coal worker and a member of the community advisory board for the Star of the South.

Renewable energy – like offshore wind – is Australia’s golden ticket to a reliable, affordable, and clean energy future. Investing in the offshore wind industry is a no-brainer, but it needs to be done right.