Out-Law Analysis 3 min. read

Consultation opens on Ireland’s offshore renewable energy policy

The Irish government has issued a consultation on a proposed framework policy statement to help reach Ireland’s long-term offshore wind ambitions.

The consultation on the proposed framework policy statement for the post-2030 Irish offshore renewable energy (ORE) sector is, on face value, a significant market signal and step up in commitment and clarity compared to previous ORE development statements in 2021 and 2023, with clear action items and timelines. Publication of the consultation is also significant in so far as it recognises that Irish ORE is competing for resources internationally and a need to ramp up momentum on delivery of specific commitments.

The consultation, issued by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), is open for a four-week period, closing on 19 February. The four-week consultation period is relatively short but is understandable given that the framework makes it clear that it is intended to align with and compliment the anticipated launch in March at the Wind Europe conference in Bilbao.

The draft framework signals the government’s commitment to regulatory certainty, speed and delivery, with the publication of the 21 action items and associated delivery timelines a self-imposed invitation to be held to account by developers, investors, and stakeholders. 

In addition to restating the 2021 offshore targets – 5GW by 2030, 20GW by 2040 and 37GW by 2050 – DECC firmly states its intention to proceed with and execute a plan-led approach for ORE development. The plan-led approach will provide the best opportunity for Ireland to reach its ORE ambitions by promoting streamlined offshore renewable energy developments which are boosted by robust legislation. The use of Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) will identify the broad areas of seabed as well as waters where ORE projects can be developed and will act as a management plan for specific areas of Irish waters, as the first step in the plan-led approach.

DECC has defended criticisms of an absence of specific dates for subsequent DMAP competitions as being premature, stating the need to first complete initial environmental assessments. Moreover, DECC has suggested that as part of the plan-led strategy, the state could start to lead and procure surveys, planning, and other consents as part of an evolving DMAP process.

The consultation reflects the step up in pace from recent EU policies to accelerate offshore wind, complimentary hydrogen production and consumption. It also conforms with the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive (128 pages / 1.38 MB) and REPowerEU as well as Irish policies such as the national hydrogen strategy and the pending national industry strategy for offshore wind. In addition, the effect of the pressure and impact of the US Inflation Act on ORE policy and development in the EU and Ireland cannot be discounted.

The 21 action items and stated timelines are broken into four categories of ORE development. These are delivery, route to market, data policy and alignment. On face value, ORE developers, investors and other stakeholders can look forward to greater clarity on development challenges, costs, programme management and modelling.

The detailed actions do provide some clarity on the critical industry themes while also recognising issues around development challenges, costs, programme management and modelling for ORE developers and investors following the consultation. In addition, the consultation lists several opportunities for ORE projects and their investors and developers around emerging technologies such as green hydrogen and its derivatives, the use of floating offshore wind, and the development of infrastructure.

Offshore floating wind is also an important area identified in the consultation, with improved and more specific actions to be taken by the government in relation to floating offshore wind projects through the assessment of potential and feasibility of deploying offshore wind farm and establishing a demonstrator site.

Additional ORE DMPAs are set to be announced by summer 2024, with the use of offshore bidding zone frameworks for possible energy export opportunities. The ORE action plans also include increased certainty and evidence of Ireland’s long-term ambition for ORE development through a sustainable Maritime Area Consent process and reflection of international practice.

The paper further examines the need for alternative routes to market for new project types emerging in offshore markets such as merchant financed projects, and corporate power purchase agreements. More sector-coupling opportunities may also be provided through non-grid limited projects which may bring more green hydrogen development opportunities

We are processing your request. \n Thank you for your patience. An error occurred. This could be due to inactivity on the page - please try again.