Ireland Pushes Ahead with First Offshore Wind Auction

Ireland’s Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has opened a consultation on the country’s first auction to supply electricity from offshore wind under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1).

The aim of this targeted consultation is to engage stakeholders and gather feedback on aspects of the Terms and Conditions to ensure the efficient and economical delivery of renewable electricity projects under ORESS 1. Views are being sought from all interested parties.

Ireland plans to source 80 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, with 5 GW coming from offshore wind.

”I welcome the publication of the draft Terms and Conditions of the first Offshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1) for consultation. The growth of Offshore wind energy will play a major role in securing a supply of sustainable electricity for homes and businesses all over Ireland and will allow us to electrify sectors such as heat and transport. It will also play a key role in meeting our climate goals – to reduce overall emissions by 51% by 2030 and to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050,” Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD said.

Ireland currently plans to hold at least three offshore auctions. Due to the relatively long development timelines of offshore wind projects, only the first two of these auctions can be expected to contribute towards the 5 GW by 2030 capacity target, the government said.

A number of milestones are required before the launch of the first offshore wind auction, according to the government. These are the enactment of the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill, the commencement of relevant secondary legislation, the establishment of a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) process, and the issuing of MACs to Phase One offshore projects.

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Additionally, an offshore grid connection assessment process must be established. This is being progressed by the CRU (Commission for Regulation of Utilities) in tandem with the ORESS 1 terms and conditions development.

Ireland has a sea area of 490,000 square kilometres, approximately seven times the size of its landmass. The country has a long-term potential of 70 GW of ocean energy opportunity including wind, wave, and tidal within 100 kilometres of the Irish coastline.

The Climate Action Plan includes a suite of actions to realise Ireland’s offshore renewable energy potential, while the Programme for Government commits to the achievement of 5 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030, and a long-term plan to take advantage of a potential of at least 30 GW of floating wind thereafter.

Enactment of the MAP Bill will provide the legislative underpinning and flexibility to allow Ireland to move, in a phased manner, from the current decentralised regime towards a more centralised, plan-led regime in line with the framework established for marine spatial planning, the government said.

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DECC has published draft terms and conditions for the first offshore wind-specific auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). Owing to the specific scale and nature of typical offshore wind farms, dedicated auctions are initially required to support the longer-term potential of this technology in Ireland. This approach, along with the RESS scheme itself, received state aid clearance in July 2020.

Photo: The Arklow Bank offshore wind project in Ireland. Source: SSE