Offshore wind is an efficient and realistic way for Ireland to take the big strides the country needs to hit its 2020 renewable energy targets and avoid EU fines for failing to do so, said Managing Director of SSE Ireland, Stephen Wheeler.
Appearing before the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Wheeler said Ireland has a window of opportunity to transform its power production in a way that reaffirms the country’s commitment to EU targets and accelerates the deployment of new and diverse energy technology.
From a cost perspective, following several years of innovation and de-risking, Wheeler said that offshore wind is now a scalable, proven and maturing technology which offers considerable benefits to consumers and society.
“If we are to make up ground on 2020 and beyond – and we believe we can – then we need to fast-forward the build-out of large-scale renewable energy capacity. Offshore wind energy can deliver large volumes of renewable electricity in the short term and also set us on the right trajectory for more ambitious 2030 targets,” Wheeler said.
However, Wheeler emphasized that delivering in this timescale will only be achieved if the right market conditions are in place for the energy industry to respond.
“As this committee knows, the Department [of Communications, Climate Action and Environment] has consulted recently on the design of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. In our response, SSE called for the inclusion of offshore wind as a separate category in the first of the new Support Scheme Auctions,” Wheeler added.
“The technology-neutral approach proposed will not give offshore wind projects investment clarity in the timeframe that we need, or enable a local supply chain to develop. We fear that it will result in an over-reliance on onshore technology, and we have doubts that a sufficient quantity of that technology can be delivered in the timeframe required.”
SSE co-developed Ireland’s first and only operational offshore wind farm in 2004 – the 7-turbine 25MW Arklow Bank Phase 1 – which was delivered with GE Energy as a demonstrator project to prove the opportunity that offshore wind could represent for Ireland.
“For our part at SSE, we’re actively progressing plans to fully develop our Arklow Bank Wind Park project. It would represent an investment of over €1bn and deliver a minimum of 520MW of capacity. Most importantly, our project can be delivered in a timescale from construction through to commercial operation that will qualify towards Ireland’s 2020 targets – offsetting and potentially eliminating any fines.”