Government indecision blows ill wind on Ireland’s offshore wind targets

10 Mar 2023

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Wind Energy Ireland say that new updates made to Ireland’s offshore wind energy strategy should have been made years ago and that the sudden changes will upset the industry’s progress.

The Government has today (10 March) announced several updates to its offshore wind policy. The updates have been criticised by lobby groups representing the wind energy sector over fears they may slow down Ireland’s ability to meet climate targets.

The Government’s most recent Climate Action Plan from December 2022 set a target of at least 7GW of offshore wind energy to be produced by 2030. However, 2GW of that will be used for green hydrogen production.

Therefore, the objective of the plan is that 5GW of offshore wind generation will be installed by 2030.

Today’s policy update contains two significant changes that representatives of the wind energy sector are concerned will derail these targets.

According to the document, there will be a rule requiring all future offshore windfarms to be built in Designated Marine Areas.

These areas have yet to be identified, and may not be for several months to a year. The new policy also says 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, described today’s news as a “radical change in policy from Government”.

He said it has created “massive levels of uncertainty” among international investors in Ireland’s offshore wind sector.

Of the Government, he said that 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.”

Wind Energy Ireland is critical of the fact that today’s decisions were not announced years ago.

“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,” said Cunniffe. “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.”

Cunniffe pointed out that even without these policy tweaks in place, the offshore wind targets were ambitious – albeit achievable. Now, the body is not so sure.

Wind Energy Ireland did welcome updates to the policy regarding floating wind energy. “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,” said Cunniffe.

“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.”

Wind Energy Ireland was not the only group to put pressure on the Government regarding today’s changes.

Cork Chamber pointed out that past deadlines have been “regularly missed” and there is an onus on Ireland to ensure it meets these deadlines to provide certainty to the lucrative wind energy sector as well as honour climate targets.

Rory Kelleher, director of sustainability at Cork Chamber, said “It has to be pointed out that this new policy on offshore wind does not reflect the consultation carried out last year by government with industry on how to move forward, which undermines the certainty and confidence that the industry and developers need to deliver, and international investors expect. Government has to ensure certainty for developers for real progress to be made.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.