The second round of auctions expected to be held under Ireland’s newly-announced Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is expected to be the primary focus of offshore wind developers.
“For the Irish offshore wind sector, the likely opportunity could arise under the second or subsequent auctions,” Cornwall Insight’s head of Ireland, Conall Bolger told OWJ.
“The first auction is likely to focus on nearer term renewables projects.
“The detailed specifics of the RESS will shape the future growth room for all technologies. Project developers will be carefully scrutinising the terms and conditions and auction rules once they become public, assuming the RESS receives state aid clearance.
“The government is to be commended for the scale of the ambition in its decision on the high level design for RESS,” Mr Bolger said. “The explicit factoring in of the interactions between network delivery, the wholesale market and final projects is to its credit.
“The potential flexibility for different technologies within each auction, and the department’s stated objective of responsiveness to market conditions, could increase the diversity of renewable electricity sources, enabling further offshore wind projects in Irish waters.”
As highlighted by OWJ, Ireland’s minister for communications, climate action and environment, Denis Naughten, has secured approval for an RESS that is expected to pave the way for renewable energy projects including auctions for offshore wind.
The 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 he argued here, Irish offshore wind has piqued interest as evidenced by the increased attention at industry events and a number of recent developments.
These include Innogy announcing an investment in the 600 MW Dublin Array site and that it would be partnering with the original developer, Saorgus to progress the site. Element Power announced that it had taken over development of the North Irish Sea Array offshore wind site, formerly being developed by Gaelectric, and Greencoat Renewables has commented on a potential addition of offshore wind to its portfolio beyond 2019.
In addition, SSE supported offshore wind in its evidence to the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment in January, Equinor said it sees “great potential” in offshore wind in the country, and ESB has expanded into the UK offshore wind sector, taking a 12.5% stake in the 353 MW Galloper windfarm.
Mr Bolger told OWJ that there is more than 4 GW of offshore wind projects “in the Irish connection queue” and the scale of the connections and the likely onshore network reinforcements need consideration and a ‘status quo’ approach to grid connection may not be appropriate.
He previously suggested that an offshore transmission owner-style regime might need to be considered, whereby offshore wind developers build connections to the onshore grid and then the regulator auctions these under individual licences, supported by predictable revenue streams, to independent parties.
As he also noted, developing offshore wind projects entails managing a variety of ecosystem impacts and there are numerous stakeholder interests that will need to be managed before a developer successful in an auction for offshore wind off the country’s coast could proceed. Examples include fishing, minerals, offshore oil and gas, naval interests, plus a multitude of responsible agencies including the Irish Sea Fisheries Board and Marine Institute.
“To manage these in a way that allocates risk and responsibilities clearly for the developer, a robust, efficient and fit-for-purpose leasing and consenting regime is necessary,” he said, noting that Ireland’s Maritime Area and (Foreshore) Amendment Bill seeks to address these concerns and was published in October 2013 but is yet to be made law.