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Uncertainty caused by new government offshore wind policy

4C Offshore | Chloe Emanuel
By: Chloe Emanuel 10/03/2023 Wind Energy Ireland

Wind Energy Ireland has warned that the Government’s new offshore wind policy, published this morning, may undermine efforts to achieve the targets set for offshore wind energy in the Climate Action Plan.

The first phase of offshore wind projects are expected to apply for planning permission later this year after competing in the first offshore renewable energy auction in April. This morning’s Phase Two Policy Statement sets out the Government’s plans to deliver the second group of projects needed to reach the 5 GW target, as well as proposals for the long-term development of offshore wind post 2030.

The plan contains two changes which may have implications for achieving the 2030 targets. It introduces a requirement that all future offshore wind farms must be built in Designated Marine Areas which have yet to be identified. It also proposes that future offshore wind farms will not connect to points on land but to offshore substations to be designed and built by EirGrid.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “This is a radical change in policy from Government that has created massive levels of uncertainty among international investors and the global supply-chain. They are gambling that State agencies can identify Designated Marine Areas quickly. Unfortunately, our experience is that those agencies are grossly under-resourced and will struggle to deliver in time unless the right people with the right skills are put to work on it as soon as possible."

Cunniffe continued: “Our members have been working for years to deliver the projects Ireland needs only for the rules to change, without warning, in the middle of the process. We are effectively being told to stop developing offshore wind energy and wait for further decisions at a point when we have no time to lose. Wind Energy Ireland is not opposed to the State identifying locations for the development of offshore renewable energy, nor that projects might connect to EirGrid substations, but if this was to be the policy it needed to be identified years ago.

"Changing the approach in the middle of project development will cost Ireland time we cannot afford to lose, prolong our dependency on imported fossil fuels and lock in more carbon emissions. We have always said the 2030 target for offshore wind is ambitious but achievable. We believe today’s announcement will make that target a lot harder to reach while projects wait for the Government to come up with a way to identify locations for offshore wind farms.”

While the statement does create challenges in reaching the 2030 target, there is welcome progress from Government in setting out a pathway for floating wind energy.

“We have always said it is absolutely possible to have floating wind energy built in Irish waters by the end of the decade. The statement puts in place a plan for how floating wind energy can be in development by the end of the decade with a route to market as early as next year. There is enough renewable energy off our southern and western coasts to not only meet Ireland’s needs but to also become a major contributor to decarbonising Europe’s energy supply. This is how we can become a true climate action leader", stated Cunniffe.

Wind Energy Ireland is calling on the Government to work more closely with industry to try and keep the 2030 targets alive.

Cunniffe continued: “We urgently need to sit down with Government and identify what can be done to speed up the identification of areas for offshore wind farms. Additional resources in An Bord Pleanála and the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority are essential.
The relevant Government departments – Housing and Environment and Climate Action – must combine their efforts to ensure the people who will be identifying these areas have everything they need. Industry and Government must work together in the Offshore Wind Delivery Task-force to try and keep alive our chances of reaching the 2030 target and delivering Ireland’s legally binding commitments to reduce our carbon emissions.”

For more information on offshore wind farms worldwide, click here.

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