Offshore Wind, at the Round Four bidders’ day

It was good to be in London on Wednesday circulating with offshore industry insiders and at another glorious venue as the Crown Estate played host to potential round 4 bidders with a day devoted to explaining the processes going forward. The discussions were held almost in the shadow of Big Ben to a colourful and musical backdrop of a climate extinction event being held in St James’s park next to the Institute of Civil Engineers magnificent building.

Indeed, the Crown Estates’ choices of venues represent something of a master class in bringing the old and new together. The journey encompassed  Glaziers’ hall in the heat of last summer and the imperial splendour of Cavendish square as the autumn gloom set in. Now, the palatial settings of the Institute of Civil Engineers George Street building, in the heart the government district, to wrap- up the engagement process. The Crown has enjoyed these events and indicated that they may miss looking at our faces and answering questions from us from their podium vantage points.

What is clear from the Crown Estate is that offshore wind has been a remarkable success story. Price reductions mean the government has the appetite for more well beyond and extend well beyond the 30 gigawatts by 2030 targets already within the public domain. This success is bringing new entrants and creating significant interest among the present and future supply chains. The Crown Estate wishes to encourage them and cement the UK’s role as a world anchor for offshore wind.

The briefings addressed fine detail in the Round 4 bidding process was and explain what can be expected from those wishing to participate. It is the first such round in the last decade and gained interest from newcomers including oil and gas majors’, financial institution and foreign investors. Also present were the industry bedrocks, the ‘big 6’ and European developers although it was a little odd to see former Eon colleagues sporting their new Innogy badges

The process was outlined in considerable detail, and developers will need deep pockets to gain consent for the four Round 4 zones on offer there was also talk of decommissioning and the new 10- year options.  The Crown has also extended leases to a whopping 60 years and, coupled with larger turbines and ever more efficient use of the seabed, will ensure the continued prosperity of the UK offshore wind sector.

A ringside seat gained me close access to the details as the Crown Estate hosted excellent questions and answer sessions throughout the day.  Despite some curious interventions during which more was said about the questioner, and their agendas, rather than the actual processes being discussed. My feelings, chatting with fellow invitees, was of genuine excitement for what is after all the biggest leasing round in the world and being held in a market with a proven track record of project delivery.

Well done to the Crown Estate for its engagement strategy, it’s listening to the industry and developers – and the majestic venues chosen.

I left with  the good -natured and  musical accompaniment of the climate protesters ringing in my ears and look forward  to sharing further nuances and insights with you in the coming days, the next stage however will be much more commercially driven and less likely to be shared amongst a wider renewables’ community. The Crown Estate has high expectations and awaits material feedback as round 4 bidders review the materials and present substantive thoughts by early next year.

Enjoy the associated podcast as Dr Massey and I discuss and analyse the key implications: Astutenewenergy/episodes/What-happened-at-Round-4-Bidders-Day