In April 2017 (1), the decommissioning responsibilities and powers for Offshore Renewables Energy Installations in Scottish Waters, or in a Scottish part of a Renewable Energy Zone, transferred from the UK Government to the Scottish Government under The (Scotland) Act 2016, Section 62.
The scope of this report is to review existing approaches, cost estimates and guidance for decommissioning offshore wind installations with the aim of providing recommendations to inform future Scottish policies and procedures.
In examining the evidence, and as highlighted during the consultations, it was clear there are different definitions of decommissioning being used by regulators, developers and other stakeholders. Broadly speaking:
- The OWF developers assumed a clear sea-bed was sufficient, i.e. the removal of foundations and cables below the sea-bed was not required;
- Several other stakeholders (e.g. regulators and non-governmental organisations) considered decommissioning to be the removal of all infrastructure.
Establishing a definition of decommissioning is one of the key recommendations for the Scottish Government when producing their decommissioning guidance.
During the consultation a number of additional points were raised which are relevant to the Scottish Government (and to Marine Scotland) for policy development:
- Consistency between the regulations in Scotland and the rest of the UK - Any regulatory changes in Scotland should aim to ensure a level playing field with other UK projects and ensure the Scottish process is not more burdensome.
- Clarity is required in the guidelines around what is meant by a ‘clear’ seabed, or what the expected state of the seabed is post decommissioning.
- A coherent approach regarding securities for Scottish projects is required.
- Further guidance is required for the installation of assets e.g. recommended cable burial depth, recommendations for cable landfall etc. which have implications when decommissioning assets.
- The consultation process could be streamlined during the approval of the initial decommissioning plan.
As noted in the consultation feedback establishing the policy for decommissioning securities will be one of the Scottish Government’s key responsibilities. There are several issues which will require consideration, including:
- The level of security required, based on the decommissioning cost estimate and additional charges (such as VAT) that the Scottish Government may be liable for in the event of Government paying for decommissioning.
- The requirement for an allowance in the security for ongoing monitoring of the site post decommissioning.
- A definition of the appropriate timeframe for the accrual of securities.
- An understanding of the handling of securities throughout the life of the OWF, particularly to cater for changes in OWF ownership.
- A statement regarding the use of the accrued security, i.e. can the security be drawn down, by the developer, to pay for the decommissioning.
Following review of existing legislation, guidance and existing decommissioning programmes, as well as examining the lessons learned from the O&G industry, the recommendations for the Scottish Government in relation to the development of policy and guidance for OWF decommissioning are:
- Adopt an evidence based approach to define decommissioning policy;
- Define what is meant by decommissioning and the developers’ obligations regarding decommissioning;
- Outline the expectations of decommissioning programmes, providing adequate guidance for developers;
- Define the requirements for decommissioning securities including appropriate level of security, based on robust cost estimates, type of security and basis of accrual; and
- Consider how a different approach to the rest of the UK may affect the development of Scotland’s offshore wind market.