Optimism is in the air: DfE and Crown Estate express commitment to offshore wind for NI

Date: Feb 9, 2023

Aveen McGahon looks at the recently announced Statement of Intent by the Department of Economy NI and the Crown Estate as they signal their commitment towards establishing offshore wind leasing for Northern Ireland

The renewables sector in Northern Ireland has suffered a shaky start to 2023.

The new windfall tax on renewable electricity kicked off this year until 2028 and with the unprecedented rise in rates proposed in ‘ReVal 2023’ (if you missed it take a look at my Climate & Energy colleague, Anna-Marie McAlinden’s article here) it’s safe to say the renewables sector could have had a better start to the year.

But optimism is in the air!

The recently announced Statement of Intent by the Department of Economy NI and the Crown Estate signals their commitment towards establishing offshore wind leasing for Northern Ireland. This is a welcome boost to the renewable sector’s mission towards green recovery and promoting a healthier economy and society here in Northern Ireland.

Currently, despite its huge potential, Northern Ireland does not generate any electricity from offshore wind.

Northern Ireland’s offshore waters have long been attractive to offshore wind developers due to our consistent wind conditions. The ambition is to deliver 1GW of offshore wind energy with the potential to supply enough energy to power more than 1 million homes in Northern Ireland.

This £2.4bn industry, with the potential to create 1,500 green jobs, would prove to be one of the most ambitious energy infrastructure plans in Northern Ireland to date. Its success would pave the way towards Northern Ireland becoming self-sufficient in affordable renewable energy and breaking our reliance on expensive imported fossil fuels.

The Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, passed last year, was the first law in Northern Ireland to be passed specifically to tackle climate change. For years, we were the only devolved administration without its own specific climate change legislation and statutory targets for emissions reduction.

As well as an overarching target to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, the Act legally commits Northern Ireland to obtaining 80% of its electricity supplies from renewable sources by 2030.

According to the Department for Economy for the 12 month period between October 2021 to September 2022, 49.3% of total electricity consumption in Northern Ireland was generated from renewable sources located in Northern Ireland. Of that, 84.9% was generated from wind, epitomising the success story of our onshore wind energy industry.

However, as we are tasked with generating at least 30% more electricity from renewable sources in the next 7 years, the race is on. Offshore wind generation will be essential to reach the 80% target by 2030.

The sense of urgency is clear from the Department of Economy, with their ongoing consultation with industry leaders in relation to the draft Offshore Renewable Energy Action Plan. It is hoped that the challenges in overcoming the gaps in our grid capacity and planning in order to make our 2030 target will be addressed.

This Action Plan, which is expected to be published in the coming months, and the Statement of Intent will provide welcome certainty and fresh optimism for investors and developers alike.

Editorial prepared by Aveen McGahon, Solicitor, Climate & Energy @ Mills Selig

Learn more about the Climate & Energy Team @ Mills Selig

Aveen McGahon, Solicitor, Climate & Energy
Aveen works within the Climate & Energy team at Mills Selig.

The Climate and Energy team are experts in renewable energy and climate law and have a particular specialism in wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and battery storage projects.

T: 028 9024 3878
E: Aveen.McGahon@MillsSelig.com
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