Winds of change pick up for Ireland’s offshore future

Ireland's new Climate Action Committee report represents a major step forward to stimulate an offshore wind energy industry here, says Stephen Wheeler of SSE. 

Late evening politics in Westminster may have become dominated by Brexit, but last night in Dublin’s Leinster House it was climate change that had politicians across all parties negotiating to agree final terms.

Last minute party political disagreements on carbon pricing and associated taxation looked set to derail the publication of a landmark climate action plan for Ireland, which has been seven months in the marking. Late last night however, after days of wrangling overcame the stumbling block on carbon tax, the all-party Committee on Climate Action published its final blueprint for a far-reaching series of actions to scale up Ireland’s response to global warming.

The new Climate Action Committee report is designed to inform Irish government policy on climate action out to 2030 and on to 2050. It includes a number of headline recommendations that are important to SSE. In particular, key recommendations relating to the development of offshore wind energy mirror policy proposals that SSE has been advocating for some time in order to kick start the offshore wind revolution here.

 Over the last 18 months, SSE has been the leading industry voice calling for policy change in Ireland to support the development of offshore wind energy, and to promote our development pipeline in Irish waters, including our Arklow Bank Wind Park project.

And with the publication of this report it appears our efforts are bearing real fruit. The cross-party Committee has recommended setting a new 70% target of electricity generated by renewables by 2030, and calls for an ‘appropriate and ambitious’ target for the deployment of offshore wind capacity to be set by the same target date. It goes on to say that developing offshore wind generation will become a priority in the next ten years, and so requires the urgent delivery of a new regulatory and licencing framework to enable this.

The Committee report sets out extensive governance recommendations to ensure delivery. Under the plan, an Oireachtas committee will be established to scrutinise the climate initiatives of each government department, while responsibility for climate action should be centrally coordinated by the Department of An Taoiseach to drive systemic change across government – yet another action that SSE has been calling for.

 All of these recommendations represent a major step forward in our ambitions for stimulating an offshore wind energy industry here. But it is important that these recommendations are actioned. Politically, the will certainly appears to be there. Welcoming the report, Ireland’s Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said he now plans to consider the Committee’s recommendations in the context of his “all-of-government Climate Plan” that he is due to publish in the coming weeks. At SSE we were also pleased to hear the Minister announce separately this week that the Government is on the brink of agreeing a new 70% renewable energy target by 2030.

 In the weeks and months ahead, SSE will continue to drive forward the offshore agenda, and we’ll be rolling up our sleeves with industry stakeholders to help refine the detailed policy framework that can deliver the ambitions set out in the report. But for now, we welcome the milestone that has been reached this week and congratulate the Climate Action Committee on taking this important step towards a greener Ireland. It heralds plenty of exciting prospects for Ireland’s renewables ambitions for the next decade out to 2030, and beyond.

About the author

Stephen Wheeler Managing Director, SSE Ireland

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