Measures to accelerate offshore renewable energy roll-out announced by Ryan

Cabinet backs approach for wind farm development in designated sea areas despite developer concerns

The Cabinet has approved plans to accelerate delivery of 5 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 confined to designated areas off the Irish coast – 1GW of power is capacity to power 800,000 homes.

The decision means the Government is not rowing back on a controversial decision to have a centralised scheme which restricts developers to set sites by a mechanism establishing designated marine area plans (DMAPs).

The wind industry sector claimed only 10 of 50 offshore wind projects in the planning pipeline would be viable due to this approach.

The Government believes, however, this is the fastest way to scale-up offshore and ensure no over capacity in the electricity system – while it takes the risk.


“This will deliver a secure, sustainable, and cost-effective supply of indigenous energy for future generations, while unlocking green energy export opportunities,” according to Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

Details of the Policy Statement on the Framework for Phase Two Offshore Wind will be issued later this week, including details of the first auction for offshore wind under a renewable electricity support scheme later this year.

This will be tied into delivery of offshore wind capacity on the south coast; “geographically aligned with available onshore grid capacity”.

The areas designated according to the Maritime Area Planning Act “will guide investment and decision-making and will complement the forthcoming network of marine protected areas (MPAs),” Mr Ryan said.

It would ensure development was managed in a sustainable way. “It will provide greater certainty for all maritime users as to where development will be situated,” he said.

Mr Ryan added: “This is a critical step on Ireland’s journey towards maximising our offshore wind energy capacity and eventually eradicating our dependence on imported fossil fuels. It will put us on a direct path to zero CO2 emissions.”

It would also mean cleaner, more secure, home-grown energy for householders and businesses, particularly when it is abundant, he added. “The approach we have chosen streamlines the development process for offshore renewable energy by optimising the consenting, planning and grid development resources of the State.”

This represented the best opportunity to meet 2030 climate and energy targets, while bolstering security of supply, he believed. “It will also provide additional certainty for investment in Ireland’s offshore renewables sector due to enhanced project delivery prospects.”

Key actions for 2023 to scale up offshore resources were also published on Tuesday, following recommendations from a taskforce examining how best to capture the wider and longer-term economic and business opportunities associated with development of offshore renewables. They include measures relating to supply chains; ports, policy, skills and workforce, and regulatory consenting.

Mr Ryan has repeatedly defended the plan-led approach in contrast to “a Klondike where everybody is rushing out” and selecting their own sites.

As a consequence the first two sites will be off the southeast and south coasts and will involve fixed bottom turbines. A DMAP for off the west coast is under consideration, while the Government has also flagged its phase three development will involve deployment of floating wind technology.

There are no commercial floating projects in the pipeline though there are a number of pilot projects generating 50-80 megawatts (MW). The Government is flagging a requirement for developments in the order of 1,000MW ie 1GW.

Phase one involves fast-tracking seven projects – six in the Irish Sea and one off Connemara, Co Galway – which are deemed eligible to participate in the first offshore renewable electricity support scheme auction later this year and to engage with An Bord Pleanála.

Phase two has identified the south coast because it is aligned with locally-available grid capacity. To further strengthen the grid there, two subsea stations are to be provided by EirGrid.

Ireland’s first DMAP is expected to be fully operational by next January with the required strategic environmental assessment completed over coming months.

The roll-out is coinciding with legislation coming into force on scaling up MPAs. No development of offshore wind farms will be allowed in environmentally-sensitive areas. But the new marine regulatory process will mean an MPA can be located in a DMAP; likewise it will be possible to have a wind farm in a MPA.

Work on the “enduring regime” – the final phase – is the long-term vision for offshore renewable energy in Ireland including regulatory and market arrangements. Its objective is for the State, in developing more than 30GW post 2030, is to ensure economic, environmental and social benefits of offshore renewable energy “are realised for everyone”.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times