Norway has announced delays to the bidding process for its Utsira Nord and Sørlige Nordsjø II offshore wind zones.
The country’s Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) said the deadline for Utsira Nord applications has been postponed until at least 2024, with a date to be announced as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the MPE also announced changes to the Sørlige Nordsjø II application criteria and a new application deadline set for November 15.
The two zones form part of Norway’s first competitive auction for offshore wind announced in March this year, which aims to procure up to 3GW of new development capacity.
Utsira Nord is an area of 380 square miles located northwest of Stavanger, which the government says is suitable for floating wind sites.
Sørlige Nordsjø II covers around 1,000 square miles bordering the Danish North Sea, where bottom-fixed turbines may be more appropriate.
The changes will not affect the date of the offshore wind auction, the MPE said.
Approval for Norway state aid causes delays
In a statement, the MPE said the changes are being made because of the process of notifying state aid to the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) monitoring body ESA.
Norway’s government expects state aid will be needed for the two offshore wind zones, and this must be approved by the ESA.
As part of the Utsira Nord tender process, the MPE said the current model will see project areas awarded based on qualitative criteria, and competition for state aid will be carried out at a later stage as part of the licensing process.
Norway’s energy minister Terje Aasland said the MPE need to obtain assurances from the ESA and the European Commission that its model for Utsira Nord is compatible with state aid rules before it receives applications and awards project areas.
“We will develop offshore wind power in a sustainable way that creates ripple effects,” he said.
“This is an important part of the government’s offshore wind initiative.
“It’s good for Norway, and it’s good for the development of offshore wind power. It is particularly important that we find good models that contribute to the development of floating offshore wind power.”
Sørlige Nordsjø changes avoid ‘significant delays’
For the Sørlige Nordsjø II zone application process, the MPE said the proposed “sustainability” and “positive local ripple effects” pre-qualification criteria will now be changed to minimum requirements that must be met to participate in the competition.
Mr Aasland said the MPE believes its original proposal for the Sørlige Nordsjø II zone complies with ESA guidelines for state aid, but it was making changes to ensure the auction was not delayed.
“We could have spent more time with ESA to get this through, but it would have significantly delayed the Sørlige Nordsjø II auction,” Mr Aasland said.
“For the sake of progress, we therefore choose to make changes now.
“I believe that we still safeguard the consideration of sustainability and positive ripple effects in a good way through the model with minimum requirements.”
Under the changes for Sørlige Nordsjø II, the heading for the “positive local ripple effects” criteria will be changed to “positive ripple effects”, clarifying that ripple effects are not limited to Norway.
Sustainability and positive ripple effects will no longer be a prequalification criterion, meaning applicants will no longer be assessed against each other within these two categories.
The deadline for the Utsira Nord and Sørlige Nordsjø II tender round had previously been postponed from September 1 to November 1.
Norway presses ahead with offshore wind
Despite the delays, Norway is pressing ahead with plans to expand its offshore wind capacity.
In September, the Norwegian government announced plans to investigate opening three new offshore wind areas, including expansions to Utsira Nord and Sørlige Nordsjø II, from 2025.
Norway selected the three areas in the North Sea from a list of 20 potential new offshore wind zones announced by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate in April.
Norwegian state-owned energy giant Equinor and renewable energy firm Vårgrønn signed an agreement jointly apply for areas in Utsira Nord.
Equinor also signed a collaboration agreement with RWE Renewables and Hydro REIN to submit an application to develop a large-scale, bottom-fixed offshore wind farm in Sørlige Nordsjø II.
Other proposed bids for the zones include a partnership between Swedish multinational Vattenfall and Norwegian firm Seagust and a joint proposal from Mainstream Renewable Power, Ocean Winds and Statkraft.