March 23, 2023

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has unveiled a major effort to reform and reduce administrative burdens and developer costs while increasing flexibility.

Since its establishment in 2010, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been responsible for managing the development of energy activities on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The first OCS renewable energy regulations were finalized in 2009 by the Minerals Management Service, BOEM’s predecessor. Since then, BOEM has made multiple smaller updates to the regulations, in 2011 and 2014, primarily restructuring the regulations to reflect BOEM’s new jurisdiction and extending timing requirements of several necessary planning documents. However, significant reforms that address a wide range of the regulatory process have not been made since the agency’s inception.

BOEM has issued and managed a total of 27 commercial leases through 11 offshore wind auctions since 2009. To meet the Biden administration’s goal of 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 15 GW of floating offshore wind energy by 2035, the agency plans to lease areas in all portions of the country in the coming years, including in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of Maine, Pacific Northwest and Central Atlantic.

On January 30 of this year, BOEM published the proposed Renewable Energy Modernization Rule. Industry feedback over the past decade informed many of the proposed rule’s updates, which include eight significant reforms to reduce administrative burdens, developer costs, uncertainty, and increase flexibility:

Eliminate unnecessary requirements for meteorological buoy deployment;
  1. Increase survey flexibility;
  2. Improve the project design and installation verification process;
  3. Establish a public Renewable Energy Leasing Schedule;
  4. Reform BOEM’s renewable energy auction regulations;
  5. Tailor financial assurance requirements and instruments;
  6. Clarify safety management system regulations; and
  7. Revise other provisions and employ technical corrections.

Many of these reforms are technical, but some of the key aspects can be described at a high level. First, updating the meteorological buoy regulations resets requirements to an existing industry practice. Currently, BOEM requires detailed site assessment plans (SAP) to deploy meteorological buoys and other measurement devices, but now the agency is proposing to remove this requirement, which was put in place when fixed towers were the industry standard. Meteorological buoys, which are attached to the seabed with an anchor and typically between 6 and 12 meters in length are less costly and environmentally impactful than fixed bottom structures. These regulatory changes should allow developers to place buoys at reduced costs and in less time.

Second, BOEM is putting in place additional survey flexibility by extending the period for satisfying detailed geotechnical survey requirements. Right now, geotechnical survey data is required for each proposed wind turbine location identified in the Construction and Operations Plan (COP) before construction can commence. However, BOEM is now proposing delaying survey requirements until after COP approval but still before construction. With delayed survey requirements allowing for greater certainty, the detailed data collected will be more valuable to developers and regulators.

BOEM is also introducing a new commitment to publish and maintain a five-year schedule of anticipated lease sales. This proposed schedule would be updated at least once every two years. Currently schedules are released and updated on an ad hoc basis. The goal of this reform is to facilitate planning by all stakeholders.

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