Ireland’s minister for communications, climate action and environment, Denis Naughten, has secured approval for a Renewable Electricity Support Scheme that could pave the way for renewable energy projects including auctions for offshore wind.
The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) will incentivise the introduction of sufficient renewable electricity generation to meet national and EU-wide renewable energy and decarbonisation targets out to 2030.
In addition, the RESS will deliver broader energy policy objectives including: enhancing security of supply; diversifying the renewable technology mix; and increasing community participation in and benefit from renewable energy projects.
An RESS roadmap will provide pathways for renewable developers – including offshore wind projects – as it sets out the indicative timelines and volumes for auctions over the coming decade and provides clarity for developers in relation to when they need to have their projects auction ready.
As highlighted here, if the necessary framework can be put in place around connections, consenting, research and route to market, Ireland could quickly transition from onshore wind to offshore.
Cornwall Insight’s head of Ireland Conall Bolger told OWJ that the future is ‘wide open’ for offshore wind if a number of key issues can be addressed.
As he noted, until recently renewables growth in Ireland has been a story with one key protagonist – onshore wind. Its offshore wind cousin has not progressed beyond a single operational project – the 25 MW Arklow Bank installation. This development lacuna has occurred despite the significant resource available offshore in Irish waters.
However, as he pointed out, a strategic environmental assessment, undertaken as part of the process to develop Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan, identified a potential of 4.5 GW of offshore wind and 1.5 GW of wave and tidal sites that could be developed without significant impact on the environment.
Announcing the new scheme, the minister said, “RESS has been approved by government and I will now seek EU state aid approval.
“This scheme will mark a shift from guaranteed fixed prices for renewable generators to a more market-oriented mechanism – that is, auctions – where the cost of support will be determined by competitive bidding between renewable generators.
“The RESS is a critical step in bringing Ireland to a leadership role in relation to renewable energy, climate action, and energy efficiency. Communities are central to the design of the new scheme and this will have a transformative impact on renewable energy projects right across the country.”
The new scheme will help realise the Irish government’s policy objective of enhancing security of supply and broadening the renewable energy mix. As renewable technologies mature, and costs fall, Ireland is well placed to take advantage and greatly diversify its renewable portfolio.
“While the auction approach will provide a route to market for multiple technologies, it will do so in a competitive, cost effective framework. The use of certain levers – such as near-term delivery dates and single technology caps, will accelerate the broadening of the renewable technology mix, particularly in light of falling costs for a number of renewable technologies.”
The RESS has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution to an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% by 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework. It is framed within the context of Ireland’s effort to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets and the EU’s Clean Energy Package, in particular the recast Renewable Energy Directive and the development of Ireland’s draft National Energy and Climate Plan. On 14 June 2018, the recast Renewable Energy Directive was agreed between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council. It includes a regulatory framework with a binding renewable energy target for the EU for 2030 of 32% with a review clause by 2023 for an upward revision of the EU level target.
Auctions will be held at frequent intervals throughout the lifetime of the scheme. This will allow Ireland to take advantage of falling technology costs and by not auctioning all the required capacity at once, will not ‘lock in’ higher costs for consumers for the entirety of the scheme.
The scheme will provide for a renewable electricity (RES-E) ambition of up to a maximum of 55% by 2030, subject to determining the cost effective level which will be set out in the draft National Energy and Climate Plan.
The minister said economic evidence suggests that a number of technologies have overlapping costs and could compete against each other throughout the lifetime of RESS. In addition, the quantity of new renewable generation required to deliver Ireland's ambitions out to 2030 and to deliver Ireland's commitments under the National Development Plan and Project Ireland 2040 will ensure a natural broadening of the technology mix as the scheme matures.
“The volume of capacity being sought under state aid notification (up to 55% RES-E by 2030) will provide certainty to investors that Ireland is serious about increasing its renewable electricity penetration and increasing the diversity of technologies at scale,” the minister said.