IRENA/GWEC Report Identifies Key Permitting Reforms to Unlock Offshore Wind’s Potential and Accelerate Energy Transition

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In the context of IRENA’s Collaborative Framework on Ocean Energy and Offshore Renewables, a new report co-authored by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has pinpointed eight vital permitting reforms. These reforms are instrumental in expediting the global expansion of renewable energy installations, a crucial step to remain aligned with the 1.5°C target and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This collaborative effort between industry and governments highlights the commitment to address this significant challenge and find practical solutions.

Under the Collaborative Framework, ten governments cooperated by providing case studies and endorsing the report’s recommendations. Collaboration is essential for unlocking offshore wind potential, and the reforms emphasized in this report represent actionable solutions that can expedite the expansion of offshore wind deployment. 

These recommendations related to mandated lead times, aligning land and ocean use, establishing one-stop-shops, conducting stakeholder consultations, offering digital training courses, creating digital databases, implementing emergency clearing mechanisms, and issuing energy infrastructure permits.

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Obtaining a permit is a significant hurdle in the offshore wind sector, a concern echoed by manufacturers, developers, and investors worldwide, regardless of project size or location. Resolving this bottleneck could catalyze a rapid expansion of offshore wind projects.

IRENA’s World Energy Transition Outlook (WETO) 2023 reveals the imperative of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 27 gigatonnes compared to 2022 levels to achieve a net-zero energy sector by 2050. Offshore wind holds the potential to play a pivotal role in delivering the clean energy essential for this fundamental transformation.

The most recent Global Offshore Wind Reports from GWEC highlighted the substantial expansion of offshore wind, with 2021 and 2022 marking the largest years for installations. Still, the growth rate falls short of the necessary pace. 

According to IRENA’s latest WETO analysis, offshore wind must expand from its current total capacity of 64 GW to 494 GW by 2030 and ultimately reach 2,465 GW by 2050 to meet critical global energy transition goals. Both IRENA and GWEC express their  confidence in the technology’s potential to achieve these targets.

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Rebecca Williams, Global Head of Offshore Wind, GWEC, said, “On the same day as 250 organisations call on policy makers around the world to set an ambitious target to triple renewables globally by 230, we are also setting out just how this could be done. Offshore wind has the potential to deliver transformative clean energy in every region of the world, but unlocking this potential requires decisive action on key bottlenecks. Permitting is at the top of that list. The reforms outlined in this report provide practical solutions that would clear the way for the rapid expansion of offshore wind in key markets around the world.”

Francesco La Camera, Director-General, IRENA, added, “Despite the recent events concerning volatility in prices across value chains, renewables continue to demonstrate their resiliency and strong competitive economic viability to drive the global energy transition.” He added, “Offshore Wind is a key part of the needed technology portfolio, increasingly gaining momentum and traction by different countries. I am pleased that this new report, from our Collaborative Framework on Ocean Energy and Offshore Renewables supported by GWEC and IRENA providing actionable solution to make permitting processes more efficient and rapid to speed up the global deployment of Offshore Wind.”

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