Executive summary

Offshore renewable energy could contribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s net-zero emissions goals and economic development

The Government has committed to reaching net zero for long-lived gases by 2050, set a target that 50% of total energy consumption will come from renewable sources by 2035, and has an aspirational target of 100% renewable electricity by 2030. The New Zealand Energy Strategy, currently under development, will help set the direction for Aotearoa New Zealand’s pathway away from fossil fuels and towards greater levels of renewable electricity and other low-emissions alternatives.

For more information on the New Zealand Energy Strategy and its Terms of Reference, see:

New Zealand Energy Strategy

Offshore renewable energy is one such alternative that could become a part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s future energy mix. Surplus offshore renewable energy could also be used to grow
energy-intensive activities such as the construction of data centres and the production of hydrogen or ammonia.

Offshore renewable energy covers many energy sources, such as wind, solar and ocean (wave and tidal), and several technologies that are at different stages of development. The most advanced technology is fixed foundation offshore wind, which is being deployed in large-scale commercial projects in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.

For European offshore wind projects online and under construction, see:

European Offshore Wind Farms Map Public(external link) — WindEurope

While this discussion document is concerned with all forms of offshore renewable energy, we use and refer to offshore wind as a specific example throughout, owing to its advanced nature.

Developers are currently exploring Aotearoa New Zealand’s worldleading offshore wind resources

Aotearoa New Zealand’s average wind speeds are higher than in most other places, meaning that our wind farms can produce more energy per unit than the global average. The least-windy sites in Aotearoa New Zealand have better wind energy potential than the windiest sites in Australia.

Technical paper: Leveraging our energy resources to reduce global emissions and increase our living standards [PDF 1,913KB](external link)

There is already significant interest from experienced developers in establishing offshore wind energy in New Zealand’s territorial sea (up to 12 nautical miles) and exclusive economic zone (between 12 and 200 nautical miles), with initial feasibility assessments underway in Taranaki, Waikato, and Southland.

To harness this potential, the Government is consulting on an approach to manage feasibility activities

Internationally, many countries are moving at speed to leverage their low-emissions resources by reducing barriers to enable the significant investment needed for offshore renewable energy projects. One barrier is how the establishment of this infrastructure is regulated.

In May 2022, the Government’s first Emissions Reduction Plan committed to developing regulatory settings by 2024, to enable investment in offshore renewable energy (such as offshore wind farms) and innovation.

Chapter 11 Energy and Industry of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first emissions reduction plan(external link) — Ministry for the Environment

The objectives of regulatory settings are to:

  • enable selection of both the developer and the development to meet Aotearoa New Zealand’s national interests, including appropriate safeguards and benefits for the environment
  • enable Māori participation in offshore renewable energy development
  • provide certainty for developers to invest in the short term, and
  • ensure New Zealand remains competitive and can secure access to offshore renewable energy technology in a timely way.

Currently, existing regulatory regimes such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 are insufficient to enable early feasibility activity by offshore renewables developers to proceed in a way that meets the above objectives. This discussion document consults on:

  • implementing a permitting or collaborative approach to the production of feasibility assessments for offshore renewables developments in a way that meets the above objectives, and
  • gathering more information about existing rights and uses in areas where offshore renewables may develop.

Next steps

Consultation on the proposals in this document will run from mid-December 2022 to April 2023. During this time, officials will meet with interested parties to discuss the proposals.

A second discussion document in 2023 is expected to canvas further elements of required regulatory settings such as how best to manage the construction, operation, and decommissioning phases of offshore renewable infrastructure.

Any regulatory changes would require either regulations made under an existing Act of Parliament, or a new Act. The Government remains committed to establishing fit for purpose
regulatory settings by 2024. Where it is feasible and desirable to do so, the Government will implement these settings sooner.

< Enabling Investment in Offshore Renewable EnergyChapter 1: Purpose of this consultation >