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Ministers English and Bruton Announce the Transition of Offshore Renewable Energy Projects

The Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, T.D. today (19 May) announced the seven offshore renewable energy projects that have been designated as Relevant Projects. These are offshore wind projects that either applied for or were granted a lease under the Foreshore Act 1933, or offshore wind projects that are eligible to be processed to receive a valid grid connection offer. The Climate Action Plan commits to increasing our offshore wind capacity to 3.5GW as part of our overall ambition to reach 70% renewable energy by 2030.

The announcement of the transition of these projects means that they can continue to work and update a number of aspects of their projects so that they will be in a position to apply under the new marine planning regime, once enacted, which will be introduced by the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2020.

Minister English commented: "I am pleased to announce a way forward for these offshore renewable energy projects which will now be determined under the planning regime to be introduced in the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2020. Under this new marine planning regime, these projects will apply for final development consent to An Board Pleanála which will provide further opportunities for public consultation on the individual projects."

Minister Bruton added: "This now sets out a clear development path for these offshore wind projects which will play a key role in decarbonising our electricity system. This is a clear example of the Government's determination to deliver on our climate and renewable energy ambitions to deliver 70% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030."

The projects that have been approved are, as follows: 

  • Oriel Wind Park,
  • Innogy Renewables, (2 projects Bray and Kish Banks),
  • Codling Wind Park, (2 projects, Codling I and Codling II),
  • Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta, (Skerd Rocks),   
  • North Irish Sea Array Ltd,   (North Irish Sea Array)


Ends

 

Note to Editors

Ireland has a landmass of around 70,000km2 and a sea area around 7 times that size at 490,000 km2. With one of the best offshore renewable energy resources in the world, there is very significant potential in utilising these resources to generate carbon-free renewable electricity. This will enable Ireland to enhance security of supply by substituting imported fossil fuels with indigenous renewable resources and provides a business opportunity to potentially develop an export market in green energy. Offshore wind will play a key role in decarbonising our electricity system and in meeting both our climate and renewable energy ambitions.

While some initial applications were made under the 1933 Foreshore Act for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) projects as early as  1999, the Government decided not to support offshore wind in 2012 due to the high support costs necessary at that time. Since then, the development of bigger and more cost-efficient offshore turbines combined with the ambitious climate and energy targets set out by the Government in the Climate Action Plan has changed the economic, social and environmental policy drivers to develop the offshore wind sector. The Climate Action Plan sets out an ambition of meeting 70% of Ireland's electricity consumption to be generated from renewable technologies by 2030. It identifies that offshore wind will play a key role in delivering on this ambition, by indicating that at least 3,500 MW of offshore wind generation capacity is needed by 2030 to meet the 70% renewable electricity ambition.

The Climate Action Plan (CAP) informed that a Transition Protocol would give guidance to the offshore wind sector regarding the treatment of these legacy projects in the context of the anticipated progression of the MPDM Bill, 2020. Accordingly, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment developed a Transition Protocol, which was published in January 2020.

The Transition Protocol gave guidance to the sector regarding the treatment of certain offshore wind projects ("Relevant Projects") in the context of the MPDM Bill, 2020 that complemented the existing and on-going extensive dialogue with the developers of such projects.  

Relevant Projects were defined as:

(a) offshore wind projects which applied for (and substantially advanced) or were granted a lease under the Foreshore Act 1933, as amended (the Foreshore Act) in respect of which material changes are proposed to that which was originally applied for and assessed under the Foreshore Acts, which changes require further assessment; and/or

(b) offshore wind projects which have a valid connection agreement from Eirgrid or are confirmed by Eirgrid as eligible to be processed to receive a valid connection offer.

Given the progress made by certain ORE projects and the need for the State to develop offshore wind resources by 2030 to help it meet its climate and renewable energy ambitions, the Marine Planning and Development Management, Bill will include a legislative provision for a transition route for these projects. This transition route gives Relevant Projects a Planning Interest, within the meaning of the MPDM Bill 2020, subject to the terms and conditions, which will apply.

That would allow these Relevant Projects to:

  • Continue environmental scoping exercises,
  • Continue site investigations and surveys,
  • Interact with Eirgrid on grid connection studies,
  • Prepare and finalise environmental reports to accompany a planning application.

The Department of Housing, Planning received five applications for Relevant Project status covering 7 projects. The approved Relevant Projects are, as follows: 

  • Oriel Wind Park,
  • Innogy Renewables, (2 projects Bray and Kish Banks),
  • Codling Wind Park, (2 projects, Codling I and Codling II),
  • Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta, (Skerd Rocks),   
  • North Irish Sea Array Ltd,   (North Irish Sea Array)

Each offshore renewable energy project must complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the consideration of these EIAs is a matter for the planning authorities, as appropriate. In the case of these large offshore wind projects, it will be An Bord Pleanála. 

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other stakeholders, will develop statutory marine planning guidelines to support best practice throughout the planning process for ORE, including the development of a specific visualisation assessment in relation to design and layout of proposed developments. These guidelines will, inter alia, provide that where a development consent is applied for in an area already subject to permission, proposals must include a visualisation assessment to inform design and layout.

The guidelines will support the operation of the new development management system to be introduced under the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill. This Bill will provide a modern, up-to-date regulatory and marine planning framework for offshore renewable energy developments beyond the limits of the foreshore (12 nautical miles). This will be an important foundation for investment in the offshore renewable energy sector as well as providing a more transparent, participative system for all marine stakeholders.

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