Regulation may unlock offshore wind farms

Currently, federal environmental agency Ibama has 55 processes for environmental licenses under analysis; in 2021 there were 23


The federal government hints at establishing guidelines for offshore wind projects was the trigger for companies and investors to enter the segment more willingly. The federal environmental agency Ibama is analyzing 55 environmental permit processes totaling 133 gigawatts. A year ago, there were only 23.

However, only two submitted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Environmental Impact Report (RIMA). Both were rejected for being in disagreement with the standard terms of reference (TR). The other projects are in the initial project phase and the agency is waiting for their work plans.

The fear is that the backlog of feasibility studies may delay the development of the sector. By law, Ibama has deadline from 6 to 12 months to analyze an EIA/Rima after submission. The analysis can take 12 to 36 months to be elaborated since the planning phase.

According to the agency, about 90% of delays in the progress of environmental permits are related to the quality of environmental studies, which do not provide enough information to attest to the feasibility of the project.

The Brazilian Wind Power Association (Abeeólica) believes that the first contracting of projects could be made in 2023 with an auction. However, this depends on a clearer definition of the rules for the cession of use of surface water, which are expected to be published by December.

Elbia Gannoum, head of Abeeólica, says that the growth of requests occurred from the moment that the regulation started to be discussed, in decree 10,946. “The agents identified potential areas and filed the process with Ibama to secure a place in line. However, there is clearly no rule about how this cession of use is going to be,” she said.

Divulgação — Foto: Ben Backwell

Divulgação — Foto: Ben Backwell

Global Wind Energy Council’s CEO Ben Backwell believes it is key for the industry that a regulatory and legal framework is defined and put in place. “This will provide a long-term vision and demonstrate to the market that there is a viable route. It will give the industry and investors the certainty that they need to make the huge investments required.”

Large companies in the sector, such as Neoenergia, are interested. The segment has attracted even large oil companies such as Shell, Equinor and new companies in Brazil such as Ocean Winds, a joint venture between EDP Renováveis and Engie, with the advantage that it already has experience in open sea drilling.

But Ibama has signaled that it will not grant any permit before the rule is established. In this context, all that is left for the companies is to wait.

“Doing studies at sea is very expensive, and the companies that have filed for a permit have a place in the queue, but they won’t go ahead and spend money if they are not entitled to the cession of use,” Ms. Gannoum said.

Nicole Oliveira, Arayara International Institute’s executive director, sees it as a new frontier in energy, to expand the generation capacity in renewable sources, but demands seriousness and rigor in the environmental impact studies and social prominence in decision-making, because it is a new technology for the country.

“Unlike onshore generation farms, whose environmental impacts are to some extent more easily manageable, offshore wind farms require greater care because it is an extremely sensitive environment, rich in biodiversity, which is already being threatened by climate change.”

*By Robson Rodrigues — São Paulo

Source: Valor International