Energy Consultants’ Report Focuses on Offshore Wind and Fossil Fuel Development in the United States

July 01, 2013

An Analysis Group team including Managing Principal Susan Tierney and Manager Stephen Carpenter recently undertook a study to examine the state of leasing and permitting processes for offshore energy development in the United States. In particular, they explored the potential business-related benefits stakeholders and government agencies could realize by using ocean planning, also known as marine spatial planning (MSP), in their offshore initiatives. MSP comprises a suite of transparent processes for fostering a better understanding among stakeholders about activity in ocean areas, available resources, and the implications of making changes in the way those resources are used.

The Analysis Group team's research was sponsored by the New Venture Fund's "Fund for Ocean Economic Research." The team interviewed numerous industry representatives who are primarily involved in offshore oil and natural gas development in the Gulf of Mexico, and offshore wind development in the mid-Atlantic region. Offshore fossil fuel production is critical to the economies of states with coasts on the Gulf of Mexico, the authors say, as are ocean-related activities such as commercial and recreational fishing. The major players in the U.S. offshore wind industry, which is still in its infancy, must deal with issues of scale, process, and market growth. For instance, developers of alternative energy must sell and deliver their output into local electricity markets that may not fully value the key attributes of wind technology, such as zero greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, existing systems for leasing and permitting may be inefficient and opaque, the authors say, adding time delays, costs, and uncertainty to the process.

The team's findings suggest that ocean planning could improve the efficiency of offshore energy development in a variety of ways, including but not limited to improving coordination and cooperation between agencies and stakeholders; improving the quality and quantity of and access to marine spatial information; reducing regulatory and financial risk for developers by streamlining the permitting process; and clarifying areas that are best suited for development and those best suited for conservation. The report also identified a number of topics for further research, including the potential for greater tiering of National Environmental Policy Act reviews of offshore energy leases and development plans; and for sharing best practices and lessons learned from state, regional, and federal ocean-planning approaches.

Read the full report