Ireland’s offshore wind energy industry has warned that the country is not on track to hit its 2030 offshore renewable energy target.

Wind Energy Ireland CEO Noel Cunniffe will tell 400 delegates to Ireland’s annual offshore wind energy conference, held at the Kilashee hotel in Naas, that unless urgent action is taken over the next 12 months there will not be enough time to build the offshore wind farms Ireland needs to meet its 2030 offshore wind generation target.

Wind Energy Ireland also published a new report, 'Twelve months to deliver offshore wind energy', which tracks the government’s progress on the delivery of offshore wind energy and sets out a series of urgent recommendations to accelerate the development of offshore renewables.

The Programme for Government commits to the development of at least 5,000 MW of offshore wind energy – approximately seven to 10 wind farms – off the east and south coast of Ireland by 2030. There is currently only one wind farm off the coast of Ireland, Arklow Bank 1, with a capacity of 25 MW.

Running out of time

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “We have less than nine years to reach the target set in the Programme for Government. We have a strong pipeline with more than 20,000 MW of offshore wind energy in various stages of development. 

“We have the resources, the technology and the expertise. We know the target is achievable.  But these projects will take time to build and we are fast running out of time.

“For us to deliver the offshore wind energy we need to decarbonise Ireland’s electricity supply we need a robust marine planning system, a much stronger electricity grid and a firm date for the first offshore renewable electricity auction.”

Twelve months to deliver offshore wind energy sets out a series of seven urgent actions for government, the system operators and other State agencies including:

  • The Maritime Area Planning Bill must be passed before the end of the year and amended to allow wind farms to adopt a flexible design approach and to ensure enough projects can apply for planning to reach our 2030 target;
  • Resources need to be invested in critical Government departments and State agencies like An Bord Pleanála, National Parks & Wildlife Service, EirGrid, ESB Networks and the CRU to enable them to help deliver the target set in the Programme for Government;
  • A firm date must be given for the first offshore wind energy auction, which had been due this year, to ensure projects will have the contracts they need to move to construction and to set a clear milestone for the Irish supply chain to work towards;
  • EirGrid’s grid development strategy, due before the end of the year, must have strong political and public support right across Irish society. It will be a litmus test, identifying those who are committed to tackling climate change and those prepared only to talk about it. 

Progress to date

Cunniffe continued: “We must acknowledge that over the previous 18 months our government has had to deal with an unprecedented healthcare crisis and to co-ordinate our response to a global pandemic.  

“In many cases the relevant government departments and state agencies responsible for enabling the development of offshore wind energy were – and in some cases remain – chronically short of staff and resources but there has still been progress.

“The National Marine Planning Framework is complete. The Maritime Area Planning Bill is clearly the government’s top legislative priority. The model for our offshore electricity grid has been identified.

“But this does not change the reality that even as progress accelerates, time is quickly running out, and we are seeing a loss of confidence throughout the international supply chain that Ireland will get the key policies and legislation in place to meet its 2030 targets.

“The next 12 months will be absolutely decisive for offshore wind and our 2030 renewable energy targets. We need to see our government, politicians, departments and state agencies step up the pace.

“If the recommendations set out in the 'Twelve months to deliver offshore wind energy' report are implemented I know industry will play our part and build an Ireland that is energy independent and a leader in the fight against climate change, delivering warmer homes, cleaner air and tens of thousands of new jobs.”