The Government this week (13th July 2023), officially launched the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), marking a significant milestone in the State’s stewardship of the maritime area including plans for renewable offshore energy development.
The newly established authority will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area and its role will include assessing applications for Maritime Area Consents (MACs), which are required before developers of offshore wind and other projects in the maritime area can make a planning application. It will also be responsible for granting licences for certain activities in the maritime area.
Determine how we develop Offshore Energy
The establishment of MARA represents the beginning of phase two for Ireland’s all-of-government approach to renewable offshore energy and will determine how we develop this valuable resource.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, officially launched the new regulatory authority at an event in Rosslare Europort today, emphasising:
“With the launch of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority here in Rosslare today, we now begin the second phase of our all-of-Government approach to the development of offshore renewable energy. Delivery of offshore renewable energy will be crucial as we strive towards our climate goals over the next few years and MARA will provide the regulation and clarity that this emerging industry needs and govern our extensive maritime resource and contribute to our nation’s sustainable future.”
Chief Executive Officer of MARA, Laura Brien, added:
“Ireland has one of the highest sea-to-land ratios in Europe and today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in how Ireland will manage that resource. MARA’s remit is wide-ranging reflecting the diverse marine resource that we will steward for this generation and the ones to come. MARA is confident in our ability to support the governance of our maritime resources. In achieving this, we look forward to working with the wide range of stakeholders in the seafood, tourism, transportation as well as offshore renewable energy sectors to deliver on our role.”
Ireland’s first ‘Designated Maritime Area Plan Proposal’
The first Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP) Proposal for Offshore Renewable Energy was also launched, by Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD. This signals Ireland’s first step into the systemic, plan-led development of our huge off-shore wind potential.
DMAPS will determine the broad area where ORE projects can be developed, and will act as a management plan for a specific area of our marine waters.
This first ORE DMAP for the South Coast puts forward an initial ‘proposed’ geographical area within which future offshore renewable energy development may take place. This area will be refined through a process of public engagement and consultation, expert environmental impact assessments and other expert analysis of the maritime areas, to assess its suitability for offshore renewable energy development.
Following a period of public engagement, a ‘Draft DMAP’ (which is anticipated to encompass a significantly smaller footprint than the initially outlined in proposal) will be published. Following this, a further statutory public consultation will take place, before the Draft DMAP is presented to the Minister for Housing and both houses of the Oireachtas for approval.
Minister Ryan explained:
“Today marks the start of our new plan-led approach to the development of our off-shore wind industry, which was supported by both Houses of the Oireachtas. It also aligns us with the strategic direction being taken by the world’s leading off-shore wind countries like Denmark and Scotland. The rigorous legislative approach included within the South Coast DMAP Proposal will offer the best approach to protect local marine environments, fishing communities and boost local community development. It will offer comprehensive opportunities for public engagement, including the engagement of local communities.”
Consultation process launched for next phase of offshore renewable auctions
In addition, Minister Ryan today also announced a consultation on the principles for the design of offshore wind auctions under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS), under the Government’s plan-led Phase Two policy. The ORESS 2 consultation process will seek the views of stakeholders on key design principles to help ensure ORESS 2 auctions are attractive to the offshore wind industry, deliver a route to market for significant amounts of clean renewable energy, and ensure value for money for electricity consumers. ORESS 2 auctions will be geographically aligned with available onshore grid capacity. Its first auction, ‘ORESS 2.1’, will see the development of offshore wind within an offshore renewable energy ‘designated Area’ – the South Coast DMAP. The consultation will run until Friday 25 August 2023, and it is expected that ORESS 2.1 will launch before the end of this year or early next year.
Minister Ryan pointed out:
“ORESS 2 is another hugely important step towards achieving our aim of delivering sustainable electricity for homes and businesses throughout Ireland. The success of our first offshore wind auction earlier this year (ORESS 1) highlighted Ireland’s enormous potential in the offshore renewables space. Both The South Coast DMAP Proposal and the ORESS 2 consultation process are important elements of our wider offshore renewables plan. As well as helping to meet our climate goals, these processes, along with subsequent offshore development, will have a transformational impact on regional communities and on sustainable jobs creation.”
Ministers today also welcomed the recent completion of a Summary Guide document for engagement between the Seafood and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) industries.
In May, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD, received Government support to develop a National Industrial Strategy for Offshore Wind which will set out how Ireland can maximise the economic opportunity arising from the production of Offshore Wind Energy (OWE).
The Strategy will be developed in consultation with the relevant government departments, agencies, and industry, with the objective of ensuring that Ireland fully captures the value of both the supply chain to deliver an OWE sector at scale, and the routes to market for this renewable energy. It is expected that the National Industrial Strategy for Offshore Wind will be published in Q1 2024 and complement the suite of upcoming government policies led by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications through the Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce.
At this week’s MARA launch, Minister Coveney said:
“Together with my colleagues across Government, I am committed to creating the environment that will allow a burgeoning Offshore Wind industry to develop and thrive. The provision of abundant, competitively priced renewable energy can be a key strategic competitive advantage for Ireland’s future reflecting the ambition as set out in my Department’s White Paper on Enterprise. On the path to that goal are a series of important policy, legislative, regulatory and infrastructural steps. Today marks one of those critical steps with the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) with its new Chief Executive Officer Laura Brien. I wish her and all her colleagues well in playing its central role for this new industry.”
Ireland’s swift and nature-positive transition to renewable energy has also been aided by the publication today of a detailed map and notice of intention to designate a new Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive for the protection of birdlife in the North-west Irish Sea. The new North-west Irish Sea SPA covers more than 230,000 hectares of important marine waters for a range of bird species throughout the year.