Irish wind energy sector ‘at risk’

By Geoff Percival

A lack of policy and regulatory progress is putting the future of Ireland’s offshore wind energy sector at risk, SSE Ireland has said.

Speaking ahead of the opening sessions of this year’s Energy Ireland conference at Croke Park, Dublin yesterday, SSE Ireland managing director Stephen Wheeler said the lack of clarity risks undermining investor confidence and sending a message to industry players that Ireland is not open for business to offshore wind.

“Ireland has one of the strongest offshore wind resources in the world, yet is one of the only countries in northern Europe not developing offshore wind capacity. This is due to the historic and continued lack of any standard support mechanism and grid access for offshore wind energy in Ireland,” said Mr Wheeler.

“The development of a thriving offshore wind energy industry presents oceans of opportunity for Ireland, including multi-billion-euro investments in low-carbon generation, the creation of skilled regional jobs and supply-chain development, and the regeneration of local ports around the island.”

“Importantly, offshore wind energy is the only renewable technology of genuine scale that can power the low-carbon revolution needed to bridge the gap towards meeting Ireland’s binding international climate and energy targets. However, that revolution will not happen unless clear signals are given to investors and the industry supply chain that Ireland is open-for-business for offshore wind,” Mr Wheeler said.

He said the Government and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities both need to “take the forward-looking steps necessary, as quickly as possible”, to support offshore wind energy.

“They can do this by providing for a technology specific category for offshore wind in the upcoming new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme,” he said.

Speaking at Croke Park, Energy Minister Denis Naughten said work is ongoing to implement the Government’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan recommendations, saying “offshore renewable energy will play a crucial role in Ireland’s clean energy future”.

“Technologies such as solar and offshore wind are becoming more cost- competitive and there is an increasing interest by developers in developing offshore wind energy projects in Irish waters,” the minister said.

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