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Environment, Climate and Communications | Onshore and offshore electricity-generating project plans

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which onshore or offshore electricity-generating projects are in the course of construction or planning at present; when they will become operable; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 and annex of actions sets out a roadmap to deliver on Ireland’s target of a 51% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by the 2030 including a suite of measures and actions to increase the share of electricity demand generated from renewable sources to up to 80%. In 2022, my Department will continue to drive the delivery of renewable energy sources in line with our targets and identified actions.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is Ireland’s flagship policy to deliver on the Government’s target of up to 80% renewable electricity by the end of the decade. The RESS is an auction-based support scheme which invites grid-scale renewable electricity generation projects to compete to receive a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate.

Supported technologies include onshore wind, solar and hybrids (co-located wind, solar, storage), as well as offshore wind projects through dedicated offshore auctions. It will also allow Ireland to take advantage of new technologies as they emerge.

Over 1GW of new wind and solar generation are being developed under the first onshore RESS auction in 2020, RESS 1. The first RESS 1 projects have now reached commercial operation with further projects to reach commercial operation throughout 2022, with the remainder expected to reach commercial operation before the end of 2023 at latest.

The second onshore RESS auction has secured a further estimated 1.5GW of renewable generation to deliver by the end of 2025. A roadmap of future auctions which sets out the indicative timelines and volumes for onshore and offshore auctions over the coming decade, was published in December 2021.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 also commits to achieving at least 5GW of offshore wind by 2030. The Government has recently agreed to increase our ambition in offshore wind energy, moving from 5GW to 7GW, with the additional 2GW earmarked for the supply of green hydrogen, a strategy for which is under development.

The Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) will be established in early 2023. In the interim, the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 provides the legal authority for the Minister of the Environment, Climate and Communications to assess Maritime Area Consent (MAC) applications from a set of pre-qualified offshore renewable energy projects. A significant milestone was reached this year, with the receipt of Maritime Area Consent (MAC) applications from this first phase of offshore renewable energy projects. Decisions on the first MACs will be issued this year, allowing successful projects to apply for planning permission from An Bord Pleanála. This will mark an important step towards reaching our 2030 climate targets.

My Department recently held a consultation on the criteria for the second batch of offshore projects required to meet our offshore energy targets, with a decision on these criteria to be taken later this year.

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