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May 2020

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Yes, and..? Fast tracking Irish offshore wind

Conall Bolger
Conall Bolger
21 May 2020

The Irish Government’s announcement of seven offshore wind projects being able to apply for planning permission under the (yet to be enacted) Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2020 (MPDM) is positive for the Irish offshore wind sector. A consenting regime is one of the key pillars of any successful offshore sector.

I am taking some inspiration from our proud theatrical traditions and rather than focusing on the potential limitations, I am accentuating the positives and looking to the future.

“Yes, and…” is a principle in drama improvisation where one player accepts what the other has provided and augments it. I am saying “yes” to this announcement. Providing a route to planning for these projects, in addition to those seeking to progress under previous foreshore leases such as Arklow, potentially means thousands of MWs clearing a key development hurdle.

There is an “and”, which are the elements that can magnify this announcement’s impact, and enable gigawatts of turbines to be spinning in Irish waters by 2030 creating a substantial sector: The “and” includes:

  • Making passage of the MPDM an early priority for the next Government when it takes office
  • Securing offshore grid connections within a reasonable timeframe. Ireland needs to accelerate not only the choice of model by network connections to offshore renewable projects are allocated and funded, but start allocating that capacity, and putting in place the resources to deliver connected projects
  • Progressing auctions for awarding of renewable support in 2021 and 2022, and aligning the delivery dates in the auctions with those in the planning and grid deployment processes
  • Ensuring that one body has ultimate responsibility for progressing the sector could be helpful (as it has been in other markets); developers still have to navigate (ahem) a diffuse web of responsibilities, though the MPDM improves that situation

There have been a number of false dawns for offshore renewable energy development in Ireland. It is a market with an abundant resource, with the experiences of more mature markets in northern Europe and the UK from which to draw. Failing to take advantage of all these resources would be more akin to tragedy than improv.

 

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