The closing date for ScotWind applications has been pushed back in order to carry out a review of the “option structure” for the leasing process.
Crown Estate Scotland said the decision was taken following the publication of the results of the Crown Estate’s offshore wind leasing auction earlier this week.
The verdict has been taken with the support of Scottish Government ministers.
A target of March 24 has been set for the completion of the review, meaning the deadline for applications will now be later than March 31, which was the original cut off point.
A new date will be confirmed on completion of the appraisal, said Crown Estate Scotland.
The public body, which is responsible for the management of land in Scotland, claimed the review will help ensure the process attracts “major green investment” by delivering “long-term economic and net zero benefits” through a “competitive and sustainable pipeline of projects”.
ScotWind was launched in June 2020 and is the first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters for a decade.
It allows prospective developers to apply for acreage to build the “new generation of offshore wind farms”, a huge part of Scotland’s net zero goals.
The Crown Estate, which is responsible for managing seabeds in England and Wales, released the results of its Leasing Round 4 on Monday.
Among the winners were BP which, alongside Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, paid £900 million to enter the offshore wind market.
Amanda Bryan, chairwoman of Crown Estate Scotland, said the outcome of the round was “unprecedented” and has “changed the market dynamics around offshore wind leasing”.
She added: “It is only right that we consider the implications of this new situation in relation to ScotWind Leasing.
“Our team will now work on the details of how these latest developments can be properly reflected in the ScotWind Leasing option structure, and we’ll ensure our registered applicants, and the wider sector, continue to be kept engaged and informed.”
It’s not the first time that ScotWind has been delayed.
It was previously put on hold until after the publication of Marine Scotland’s draft Sectoral Marine Plan – leasing information was originally scheduled for April 2019.
The decision has been criticised by Scottish Renewables, which has expressed fears about the possibility that the “goalposts will be moved”.
It has called for the review to be “as focussed as possible” and for any delays to the process to be kept to a minimum in order to reduce uncertainty.
Claire Mack, chief executive of the industry body, said: “Developing an offshore wind farm does not begin and end with deploying turbines in the sea and our members have already invested many thousands of hours, and many millions of pounds, preparing to bid into the ScotWind Leasing process.
“That process, which industry was first told would conclude in January 2020, is already 14 months overdue. Those companies will therefore be disappointed and intensely frustrated at this further delay, as well as at the possibility that the goalposts will be moved at such a late stage.
“We have the potential to build a globally-competitive offshore wind industry in Scotland, including a real chance to take the lead on the development of floating offshore wind.”
She added: “Scottish Renewables has previously warned that any legislative or regulatory changes which damage that goal – which is intrinsically linked to the achievement of our net-zero target – should be made with the utmost caution.
“Scotland is already disadvantaged by its tougher seabed conditions and the higher electricity transmission charges projects here face.
“If offshore wind is to deliver on its potential for job creation and economic development in Scotland it is imperative that the processes through which this low-cost, reliable technology is deployed are as straightforward, and progress as rapidly, as possible, and we would urge Crown Estate Scotland and The Scottish Government to proceed quickly with that in mind.”
Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, said: “It is the Scottish Government’s responsibility to secure a fair price for the sea bed sites being leased for offshore wind developments around Scotland and to make sure that the people of Scotland benefit fully from decisions taken in relation to the Scottish Crown Estate.
“In light of the significant changes that we are now seeing in the wider UK offshore wind market, Ministers have agreed with Crown Estate Scotland that it would be sensible to review our leasing process in order to fully consider the implications of the recent auction outcome announcement by The Crown Estate UK for sites around England and Wales.”