New agreement to boost offshore wind energy projects

The Government is to sign an agreement on Monday with nine northern European countries to further offshore wind-energy development.

Industry lobby group, the National Offshore Wind Energy Association of Ireland (NOW), has urged politicians to back this with firm policies, saying Ireland is in a “parlous” state over meeting renewable energy targets.

Ireland is to sign the declaration on the fringes of a European Council energy meeting. Other signatories are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, the UK and Norway.

The declaration calls for “further cost-effective deployment of offshore renewable energy, in particular wind, through voluntary cooperation”.

The agreement between the so-called North Seas (the North Sea and the Irish Sea) countries does not set new legal requirements on Ireland. But it does call for co-operation on a three-year work programme in areas such as maritime spatial planning for windfarms and grid development.

NOW council member Aidan Forde welcomed the deal but said the Government needs to “take it seriously” because “we are lagging behind. If we miss our 2020 targets, we can’t just tell Europe ‘ah, sure, it will be grand for 2030’.”

He said offshore projects that would provide 3,000MW of power are almost ready to go, but need a commitment from the State that it will buy the power, before they can be financed.

Prominent offshore schemes already developed include the Arklow Bank development, 13km off the Co Wicklow coast.

Mr Forde said the onshore wind sector is “running into difficulty” because of restrictions and public opposition. “All the low-hanging fruit has been done [with onshore wind],” he said. “We now need to create the investment climate offshore.”

He said NOW has sought a meeting with Denis Naughten, Minister for Climate Change and Natural Resources.