Offshore renewables explored as part of transition to clean energy

Energy and Resources
  • Feedback sought on development of offshore renewable energy like wind farms
  • Decisions on future block offers for onshore petroleum exploration deferred until early in the next parliamentary term

The Government is seeking public feedback on the development of offshore renewable energy infrastructure like wind farms, Energy and Resources Minister Dr Megan Woods said today.

“Offshore renewables have the potential to produce the electricity needed to replace fossil fuels and support New Zealand’s transition to net zero by 2050,” Megan Woods said.

“Technology like wind farms set off the coast of New Zealand can deliver a clean, stable source of renewable energy to help us become more energy-independent and avoid the fluctuations in cost of fossil fuels like oil and coal.

“The proposals released today set out potential approaches to manage feasibility activity, with consideration of environmental and cultural factors alongside commercial viability.

“This delivers on our commitment to regulate this promising area of renewable energy production, so investors have certainty and can get assessments underway as soon as possible,” Megan Woods said.

The potential environmental and cultural impacts will be closely examined before decisions are made about what projects could be constructed and this will require developers to work closely with iwi to understand these impacts.

“We firmly see Taranaki’s future as still being an energy future. New Zealand has high levels of renewable resources – so we are well positioned globally to create a sustainable energy system for generations to come,” Megan Woods said.

“Ensuring we have the right settings in place to encourage development of offshore renewable infrastructure will enable us to deliver net zero emissions by 2050,” Megan Woods said.

Today Megan Woods also announced the Government is deferring decisions on future petroleum block offers.

In 2018, the previous Coalition Government announced an end to new offshore oil drilling and committed to another three rounds of block offers (2018, 2019 and 2020), which is the permit tender process for new drilling in onshore Taranaki.

It also said decisions about future block offers beyond those committed would be made at a later date. Two of the tenders have been completed and the last (2020) remains in progress. 

Today’s announcement means there will be no further petroleum exploration permits granted, beyond what is already underway, until early in the next Parliamentary term.

“I am not committing to any further block offers now. Decisions will be made early in the next Parliamentary term when there will be a better evidence base of future demand,” Megan Woods said.

“This Government is committed to scaling up the renewable energy sector to phase out harmful fossil fuels. While fossil fuels remain essential today, the needs of tomorrow need to be properly understood to support future generations of New Zealanders,” Megan Woods said.

“During this time, I will continue engagement with Taranaki hapū and iwi on the future of the block offer process, to better understand their position.”

“Our actions to date have made room for clean renewables to take over from polluting oil and gas. I am committed to keeping up this momentum to decarbonise the energy sector,” Megan Woods said.

Have your say on the offshore renewable energy consultation on the MBIE website here:

Submissions will be used to help inform policy decisions to enable early feasibility assessments to develop offshore renewable energy infrastructure in New Zealand. Submissions close on 14 April 2023.

Note for Editors

Block offer

In 2018, the Government announced an end to new offshore oil drilling and committed to another three rounds of block offers (2018, 2019 and 2020), which is the permit tender process for new drilling in onshore Taranaki. Two of the tenders have been completed and the last (2020) remains in progress.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is expected to make a decision on whether to open the tender for Block Offer 2020, in the first quarter of 2023.

The Government has deferred decisions on whether there would be future offers until early in the next Parliamentary term. This will allow time to build a better evidential base of future levels of demand for fossil fuels and other resources, including the most efficient ways to extract petroleum to meet this demand, and time to better understand the position of local iwi.

Offshore renewable energy

Offshore renewable energy is energy generated in or on the sea from reusable, infinite natural sources such as wind, ocean currents, light or heat from the sun, rain and geothermal heat. Under the Emissions Reduction Plan, the Government has committed to put in place a regulatory regime for offshore renewables by 2024.

There are many ways of harnessing offshore renewable energy including floating solar and floating wind turbines, and infrastructure on the seabed itself such as those used for wave energy, tidal energy, and offshore wind. These technologies are emerging and are in various stages of development internationally. Fixed foundation offshore wind technology is the most mature of the offshore renewable energy sources today.

Before decisions can be made on whether to construct and operate offshore renewables, significant feasibility studies are needed to examine commercial and technical viability, and cultural and environmental impacts on the marine environment and existing uses of it.

The proposals set out options for how developers might assess feasibility. This could involve working in conjunction with one another or competing for permits that provide exclusive rights to do feasibility studies in an area. 

Later in 2023, MBIE is expecting to consult on further regulatory settings to enable infrastructure to be constructed, operated and decommissioned.