Offshore wind energy revolution 'at risk'
SSE, Ireland’s leading renewable energy generator and developer, has warned that the continued lack of any renewable electricity support scheme as well as grid access for offshore wind energy is undermining investor and supply chain confidence in the potential to develop this transformative, low-carbon industry sector in Ireland.
Speaking ahead of the annual Energy Ireland Conference, opening today at Croke Park in Dublin, SSE Ireland Managing Director Stephen Wheeler said that the lack of clear policy and regulatory signals in support of offshore wind energy risks sending a message to the industry that Ireland is not open for business to offshore wind.
Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Ireland, said:
“Ireland has one of the strongest offshore wind resources in the world, yet is one of the only countries in Northern Europe not developing offshore wind capacity. This is due to the historic and continued lack of any standard support mechanism and grid access for offshore wind energy in Ireland.
“The development of a thriving offshore wind energy industry presents oceans of opportunity for Ireland, 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.
“Importantly, offshore wind energy is the only renewable technology of genuine scale that can power the low-carbon revolution needed to bridge the gap towards meeting Ireland’s binding international climate and energy targets. However, that revolution will not happen unless clear signals are given to investors and the industry supply chain that Ireland is ‘open-for-business’ for offshore wind.
“This means that Government and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities both need to take the forward-looking steps necessary, as quickly as possible, to support offshore wind energy. They can do this by providing for a technology specific category for offshore wind in the upcoming new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, and by delivering certainty to the energy sector that grid access will be provided to offshore wind projects. If these steps are not taken, Ireland’s offshore wind energy revolution will be stalled before it even has a chance to begin.”
Unlike onshore wind and peat generation, there is no standard support mechanism available for offshore wind energy in Ireland. Despite consulting last year on the design of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) that will underpin how Ireland will meet its future low carbon energy goals, the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (DCCAE) has still to publish its final design, including whether specific technologies such as offshore wind will be included in future competitive auctions.
Additionally, there is no grid connection policy in place that provides access to the market for offshore wind energy. Guidelines published earlier this year by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) for the new ECP-1 electricity connection policy, which will govern access to the national grid, fail to deliver certainty as to whether offshore wind will be provided with access in upcoming grid connection rounds.