Norway postpones offshore wind tenders amid state aid talks

Norway has postponed two upcoming offshore wind tenders – with one shelved indefinitely – as it seeks to ensure compliance with European state aid rules. 

Terje Aasland, Norway's petroleum and energy minister (right), speaking at an offshore wind conference (pic credit: Norwegian Offshore Wind)

The Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy said the Sørlige Nordsjø II and Utsira Nord tenders would be delayed as it seeks compliance with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)’s monitoring body ESA. 

It has postponed the Utsira Nord tender indefinitely – though it aims to set a new deadline for the first quarter of 2024 – and pushed back the Sørlige Nordsjø II by two weeks.

The ministry argued that this would help “to avoid delaying the process for allocating the areas” in the upcoming tenders. 

The new application deadline of 15 November for the Sørlige Nordsjø II tender will give bidders in the auctions time to adjust to new criteria related to sustainability and "local ripple effects", the ministry explained.

“The changes are necessary for ESA to be able to quickly approve that state aid is awarded,” the ministry stated, adding that it believes the proposals complied with ESA regulations. 

Unlike Sørlige Nordsjø II, the Utsira Nord tender was postponed indefinitely. 

The ministry stated that it wanted to spend more time in discussions with the ESA and that European Commission so that the tender could be awarded based on qualitative criteria that complied with regulations to ensure that the project would go ahead eventually. 

Arvid Nesse, manager of industry body Norwegian Offshore Wind and the Marine Energy Test Centre in Norway, expressed frustration at the delay but said he understood the importance of getting details right. 

“It's unfortunate that we are facing more delays, but at the same time, it's essential for the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and ESA to establish a plan that secures development and involvement of the supply chain [in] Norway,” Nesse said. 

“What is important now is that the ministry takes all the necessary measures to avoid further delays in the allocation and commencement of the offshore wind projects in Norway."

Both the Sørlige Nordsjø II and Utsira Nord areas are located off Norway's south-west, which Oslo believes could host 3GW of fixed-bottom capacity and 1.5GW of floating capacity respectively. 

Additional future offshore wind zones were identified by Norway last month as it seeks to allocate 30GW of offshore wind zones by 2040 ahead of a future pivot towards renewables.