On 17 June 2019, the Government published its Climate Action Plan 2019 . The Climate Action Plan sets out a cross-sector suite of objectives and actions aimed at reducing Ireland's carbon emissions.
As part of a suite of objectives in relation to electricity generation, the Climate Action Plan emphasises the role of offshore wind in achieving the Government's stated ambition of delivering 70% of Ireland's electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Chapter 7 (Electricity) and Action 25 (Offshore Renewables) are of most relevance to offshore wind projects.
The Climate Action Plan for offshore renewables is split into a number of workstreams, namely (1) Development Management / Consenting, (2) Route to Market (RESS) and (3) Offshore Grid Delivery. Each of those workstreams is sub-divided into "Transitional / Legacy" and "Enduring" steps and actions. This may be indicative of an approach which seeks to 'bring forward' a number of projects which are within the existing foreshore consenting regime for offshore wind projects (Legacy Projects) whilst seeking to put in place an enduring consenting framework for future projects (Enduring Projects).
Offshore Wind under the Climate Action Plan - At a Glance
At least 3.5GW of offshore renewable energy to be connected by 2030 (the use of the words 'at least' appears to have been intended in the Climate Action Plan since the corresponding reference to capacity for grid-scale solar and onshore wind is framed as 'up to' 1.5GW and 8.2GW respectively).
New Marine Planning and Development Management Bill (MPDM) (previously referred to as 'MAFA') to be published in Q3 2019 and primary and secondary legislation enacted by Q3 2020.
The MPDM Bill will introduce a single consenting system for the maritime area. One of the primary objectives of the Bill is to eliminate the unnecessary duplication of the consents process for offshore developments which are currently assessed under both the foreshore and planning regimes. In particular, this will facilitate the requirement to carry out a single holistic environmental assessment of the entire project (including both the onshore and offshore components of the project). This will more closely align the Irish system with the system in England and Wales where projects are consented on the basis of the grant of the Crown Estates Lease and a Development Consent Order.
Consenting of a number of Legacy Projects is likely to be facilitated through a 'Transitional Protocol' which will include (among other things) an agreed structure for the sequencing and delivery of onshore consents, approvals and state supports.
Offshore specific RESS auction(s) to be held, with first auction in Q2 2021, subject to Government and State Aid approvals and subject to sufficient competition in applications. Alternative options will be considered where there is insufficient competition for an auction. RESS is being designed with a renewed focus on community and citizen participation.
CRU policy decision to be made by the end of 2019 on grid connection offers for Legacy Projects, in line with the CRU's wider enduring grid connection policy. Grid connection offers are to be made to those offshore wind applicants in Q2 2020 with offer acceptance and financial close to occur by Q4 2021 and commencement of construction by Q1 2022. The Climate Action Plan suggests a 4 year period to complete construction of the offshore project and grid infrastructure.
Enduring policy to be developed for offshore grid (the Regulatory Framework for Connections of Offshore Windfarms). The Climate Action Plan suggests that grid connection offers will be made to applicants that are successful in a RESS auction suggesting that a grid connection offer will not form part of the eligibility criteria for offshore RESS auctions for Enduring Projects.
The decision as to who will be responsible for grid delivery under the enduring grid policy is reserved until the Regulatory Framework for Connections of Offshore Windfarms is finalised.
The Climate Action Plan emphasises the role of new interconnection to 'balance its significant renewables potential with security of electricity supply and develop long term ambitions to export its offshore renewable resources'.
The Government has committed to establishing a multi-organisational 'Top Team' in offshore renewables to take advantage of the industrial and employment opportunities from offshore wind.
The diagram below illustrates some of the key Government objectives under Action 25 (Offshore Renewables), and should provide a helpful roadmap for developers and investors in understanding the timeframe for opportunities in the Irish offshore renewables sector.
Our recent offshore wind experience:
Oriel Offshore Wind Farm - acting for the developer of the 330MW wind farm which will be developed in an area 22km off the coast of Dundalk, County Louth in Irish territorial waters.
Advising Parkwind N.V. on a joint venture with ESB for the development of the 330MW Oriel offshore windfarm and the 500MW Clogherhead offshore windfarm.
Advising a consortium of International Utilities on their bid to acquire a 50% interest in a large scale offshore windfarm.
Arklow Banks Offshore Wind Farm - advised a General Electric subsidiary (Arklow Energy Limited) on the Arklow Banks project, the first offshore wind farm in Ireland.