Government backing can deliver 20,000 jobs in offshore wind energy in Ireland

SSE today joined the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) and the National Offshore Wind Energy Association (NOW Ireland) in identifying a number of specific actions for the Irish Government to enable substantial offshore wind energy development and provide an estimated 20,000 jobs.

These include the creation of an IFSC-style Offshore Wind Energy Development Committee to coordinate government policy across departments, State agencies and industry. This body could drive the legislative and policy changes needed to ensure that clean offshore wind energy is harnessed to power Ireland’s homes, businesses and economy.

At a joint IWEA and NOW Ireland Offshore Wind Energy Forum, sponsored by SSE, taking place today in the Arklow Bay Hotel, two new reports were discussed that set out how Ireland can exploit the enormous potential of our offshore energy resources.

The SEAI has estimated that onshore and offshore wind together could create 20,000 jobs by 2040. Employment opportunities in offshore wind could also regenerate local ports around the island and bring highly-skilled jobs to the regions. But the failure of successive governments to help develop offshore wind energy means that billions of euro of investment is being delayed. 

Meeting Ireland’s future electricity demand in a growing economy, and our EU renewable targets, will require an additional 400-700 megawatts (MW) of renewable generation a year up to 2030. With an estimated 4-5,000MW of offshore wind energy ready to be developed off Ireland’s east coast it can deliver the volume of clean energy needed to decarbonise our economy.

Separate reports recently published by KPMG and Cornwall Insights put forward policy recommendations to Government which are designed to eliminate the legal and technical barriers holding back the development of Ireland’s largest renewable energy resource.

Among their proposals are:

  • A targeted policy to develop offshore wind supported by an Offshore Wind Energy Development Committee on the IFSC model, which brings together Government departments, State agencies and industry;
  • Ensure the design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (‘RESS’) facilitates the development of offshore wind projects;
  • Our Grid Connections Policy must enable offshore wind energy to connect as quickly as possible;
  • Issue foreshore leases under the current Foreshore Act to enable existing projects to immediately start development; and
  • Amend existing foreshore legislation at the earliest opportunity to facilitate future projects.

Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Ireland, said: “Offshore wind energy can power the low-carbon revolution needed to bridge the gap towards meeting Ireland’s 2030 climate and energy targets. However, that revolution will not happen unless clear signals are given by Government to investors and the industry supply chain that Ireland is ‘open-for-business’ for offshore wind.

“The proposals recommended by KPMG and Cornwall Insights provide all stakeholders including Government with a clear pathway towards how we can unlock the development of a thriving offshore wind energy industry here in Ireland. By adopting these proposals, Ireland can finally seize the oceans of opportunity available, including multi-billion-euro investments in low-carbon generation, the creation of skilled regional jobs and supply-chain development, and the regeneration of local ports around the island.”

David Connolly, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said: “It is more than 14 years since our only operational offshore wind farm, the 25MW Arklow Bank Phase 1, was fully commissioned. For a generation we have seen some of the world’s best offshore wind energy resources go unused. While other countries have forged ahead, using offshore wind energy as a core part of their transition to low-carbon economies, Ireland has fallen behind.

“The reports from KPMG and Cornwall Insights identify the legislative and policy changes we need to ensure that we can power our homes, our businesses and our economy with clean offshore energy. The critical responsibility for policymakers is to make planning regulations and access to grid as straight-forward as possible. If this is achieved we can ensure that offshore wind energy plays its part in Ireland’s carbon-free energy future.”

Paddy Teahon, Chairman of NOW Ireland, said: “There is already a strong pipeline of offshore wind projects in the Irish Sea. With the Government actions identified in the recent reports from KPMG and Cornwall Insights, these projects could deliver around 1000MW of capacity in the immediate future, and an additional 3000MW by 2030. 

“We are an island nation, with extensive territorial waters. We see other countries in Northern Europe revitalising coastal communities through investment in offshore wind energy. It’s time for Ireland to take this opportunity. Clear and early signals from Government and regulatory authorities will allow projects to come forward, and will enable the Irish supply chain to maximise the job-creating benefit from this game changing technology.”

The KPMG Report, which was published in partnership with NOW Ireland, is available here.

To view the Cornwall Insights Report, published in partnership with Pinsent Masons, Catapult Offshore Renewable Energy and IWEA, please click here.