Global jitters in the offshore wind sector will not imperil the potential for projects off the Illawarra coast, the CEO of a company vying to deploy the technology has said.
Speaking on the sidelines of an update to local industry, Carlos Martin, CEO of BlueFloat Energy which is behind the South Pacific Offshore Wind project, said the withdrawal of developers from offshore wind projects in the UK did not risk plans for the industry to set up in Australia.
"Our view is that this is a short term effect," he said. "What happened is that some companies made predictions about how the technology and the costs will evolve and they were probably too optimistic in terms of the reduction of costs."
Last week, Swedish energy giant Vattenfall said it was pulling out of a 1.4 gigawatt wind farm off England's North Sea Coast, due to a 40 per cent increase in costs. Two other projects were also on the chopping board.
Mr Martin said the increases in the cost of building and deploying turbines was a temporary result of short-term inflation caused by the war in Ukraine, and that Australia's aim to have the relatively newer technology of floating turbines in the Illawarra, Hunter, Victoria and elsewhere was secure.
"I think there are very good, strong arguments that costs will go down as technology improves and there is the industrialisation of fabrication," he said.
However, what was needed Mr Martin said was clear timelines and incentives for industry. Victoria is the only jurisdiction in Australia to have set a target for offshore wind, with NSW yet to nominate a figure for the nascent industry.
Victoria aims to produce 2GW of energy from offshore wind by 2032, to double that by 2035 and to reach 9GW by 2040.
NSW under the both previous Perrottet government and the current Minns government has not yet set a target, but reportedly has tasked consultancy Arup to report back on options. But Mr Martin said clear guide rails would generate interest and ensure investment.
"What needs to happen is to have clear objectives, the industry to mobilise and for developers like us to push forward projects as fast as possible."
BlueFloat is one of several firms aiming to deploy floating offshore wind turbines off the Illawarra coast. The industry is awaiting the federal government to declare a section of the coast suitable for further exploration, before the planning approvals process can begin. Current proponents including BlueFloat and rival Equinor expect that turbines, if approved, will begin supplying energy to the local grid by late 2030.
In this period, Michelle Voyer from the University of Wollongong said the community had an opportunity to be involved in shaping the kind of offshore wind industry that develops.
"Part of [the community response] sits with us in the Illawarra to get in front of this and start to articulate what we need to see," she said.
"How does this work for us, rather than it being done to us as a community."
Community opposition to BlueFloat's original plans drove the proposal north from being located off Kiama to the Illawarra's northern suburbs, which drew a mixed response at a recent community information event. However, Mr Martin said early engagement would enable the company to get the final design right.
"We are at a stage where projects are not set in stone, they can still be adjusted taking into account the feedback from local communities."
With the scale of the potential offshore wind generation in the Illawarra - a call out for interest as part of the Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone returned $35 billion in potential investment in offshore wind alone - this opportunity was magnified, Ms Voyer said.
"When you've got multiple proponents and potentially multiple farms coming on board, it makes sense for the community to come together with ideas around what benefit sharing really should and could look like," she said.
As project developers expect thousands of jobs to flow from the proposals, Ms Voyer said the community had a voice and potential to ensure these jobs and wider economic impacts benefited the region in the long term.
"It's not just one industry, there's an entire network that sits around that which needs to be considered and incorporated into our thinking and planning."