Ireland needs a dedicated delivery agency with assets and resources to realise Offshore Renewable Energy ORE) opportunity…says Shannon Chamber

Ireland needs a Taoiseach-chaired cabinet sub-committee and a dedicated delivery agency with assets and resources to drive a mission-led industrial strategy for offshore renewable energy (ORE).

That’s the view of Shannon Chamber expressed in its submission to the public consultation process on the draft Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP 11). The submission was made in conjunction with the Atlantic Economic Forum (AEC) Business Forum.

Accepting the need for a clearly articulated and evidence based OREDP, the Chamber’s view is that the current draft Plan lacks reference or linkage to Ireland’s Vision 2040 or overarching economic goals.

“Any plan to develop Ireland’s offshore energy potential must demonstrate contribution to national economic vision and goals and must be based on a mission to make Ireland a leading exporter of offshore renewable energy,” says Chamber president Eoin Gavin.

“One of the key outcomes of the OREDP is to identify the Broad Areas of Interest (BAIs) which will later be refined to become designated and priority locations for the realisation of Ireland’s marine energy potential.

“None of the criteria used to identify the BAIs in the current draft refer to desired economic goals or strategic outcomes. They are more focused on potential fit with Ireland’s current rather than desired future state,” says Gavin.

“The result, as stated in our submission, is that there is a strong risk that the approach to the development of Ireland’s offshore renewable energy resource will be overly influenced by the capacity of the existing grid network and other constraints.

“A future-focused approach must include criteria such as potential to generate exports and added-value.

“Existing constraints such as grid, port or supply chain capacity should be treated as problems to be resolved. This requires a focused plan to deliver the policies, research, innovation, and infrastructure required to make Ireland a leading exporter of renewable energy,” adds Gavin.

Commenting specifically on the BAIs set out in OREDP 11, Gavin states that, if selected, these locations, close to shorelines, would create unnecessary potential conflict with visual amenities, areas of preservation and in-shore marine activities.

“The BAI on the West Coast of the Shannon Estuary, for example, is limited to depths of less than 100m. This is driven by the assumption that there are current floating offshore wind (FOW) facilities in depths of 60m.  However, investors have pointed out that these are mainly demonstration projects in other countries. Commercial FOW is more suited to depths of between 85 and 200m.

“The BAIs in the draft OREDP 11 do not therefore align with industry expertise on future potential. The ambition to make Ireland a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy, and a world leader in value-added exports of renewable energy will only be realised if the potential of the east and west coasts is optimised. The potential the west coast offers is not fully taken account of in the draft OREDP 11.

“That is why we are calling for a delivery agency with responsibility and authority, a clear action plan with a clearly defined mandate, timelines and deliverables. This agency would operate in the space between investors and policy makers and have a key role in accelerating delivery, avoiding conflicts, and resolving technical differences,” states Gavin.