Proposed changes by the Government that would require future offshore windfarm developments to take place in a limited number of designated areas risk damaging Ireland's ambition to become a global leader in renewable energy, Engineers Ireland has warned.
The organisation said the proposals have led to industry concerns that could seriously threaten immediate project plans, jobs and targets to increase Ireland’s offshore wind capacity.
Yesterday, the Cabinet approved plans to accelerate delivery of 5GW of offshore wind by 2030.
It also indicated that it will shortly publish a policy statement on the second phase of offshore wind development, which would enable the first auction under the Renewable Energy Support Scheme to take place by the end of this year.
The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications said this auction and all subsequent auctions under the second phase of offshore wind rollout would lead to development of capacity within designated offshore renewable energy areas.
"These Areas, which will be designated according to legislative provisions for Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) in the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act, will guide investment and decision-making and will complement the forthcoming network of Marine Protected Areas," it said in a statement.
"This plan-led approach will ensure that development is managed in a planned, strategic and sustainable way. Importantly, it will provide greater certainty for all maritime users as to where development will be situated."
But reacting to the news today, Engineers Ireland said the Government needs to clarify the proposed policy in order to support investment.
"Ireland has the potential to become a net exporter of renewable energy, and to become a leader in EU Energy Strategy," said Damien Owens, Director General of Engineers Ireland.
"We must accelerate the route to market for innovative energy solutions such as offshore wind with support from Government policy around procurement, planning and execution."
"It is essential that the Government supports innovative solutions in the development of floating offshore wind turbine platforms, to position Ireland in taking a leading role in developing this technology."
"Above all, our coastal communities, fishers, industry, and Government must all work together to build, and agree on, new installations for offshore wind production."
In this regard, Mr Owens urged all stakeholders to express their views to the department through a public consultation on the draft second Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan.
Mr Owens also said that increased infrastructure is required to support Ireland’s energy development potential, particularly in the area of wind generation.
"Ireland has a high potential for innovation in energy management and floating offshore wind generation," he said.
"We have the potential to be a leader in green energy in Europe and become a net exporter of green energy to support the REPowerEU Plan40 but only if we have suitable infrastructure and physical connections to the EU."
The comments came as the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment published a report on offshore renewable energy.
It recommends the establishment of a State body to develop and engage on offshore wind energy.
That body could be further supported by an offshore delivery taskforce, it suggests.
It also recommends consideration be given to establishing a separate Government Department for Renewable Energy.