Tuesday 17 September 2019

Natural energy that could power hundreds of thousands of homes being wasted due to legislative delays - companies

Turbines in an offshore wind farm. Stock image
Turbines in an offshore wind farm. Stock image

Caroline O’Doherty

Wind energy companies say natural energy that could power hundreds of thousands of Irish homes is going to waste as legislation to enable its capture is repeatedly delayed.

Off-shore wind farms could more than meet the country’s renewable electricity  targets, they say, but their development is held up by stalled law-making.

Ireland has just one offshore wind farm despite the country’s extensive coastline and almost constant wind.

David Connolly, chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), said 4-5,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy was ready to be developed off the country’s east coast.

“Our industry is ready, willing and able to deliver the 3,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2030 required in the Climate Action Plan,” he said.

“But there is uncertainty about whether the legislative and policy changes needed to ensure offshore wind is harnessed to power our homes, businesses and economy are happening fast enough.”

The hold-up stems from delays in clarifying the planning and licencing requirements for off-shore development.

Draft legislation was produced in 2013 but it failed to progress. In July this year the Government approved the general scheme of its replacement, the Marine Planning and Development Bill, but the IWEA fears a lengthy process before it eventually becomes law.

“The Bill needs to be published before the end of the year and prioritised for passage through the Oireachtas,” Dr Connolly said.

“It may be more than ten years to 2030 but that’s a very short space of time to build an offshore wind industry from scratch and there is absolutely no time to waste.”

Along with legislation, details have also to be finalised for how off-shore operations will connect to the national electricity grid and what financial arrangements will be on offer.

Dr Connolly was speaking ahead of a gathering of wind energy industry members in Dublin today.

The Climate Action Plan targets having 70pc of the country’s electricity needs met from renewable sources by 2030, up from 30pc currently.

Further development of onshore wind farms forms part of that plan but about half the renewable electricity is to come from off-shore wind.

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