Stakeholders in the international offshore renewables sector reacted relatively positively to the enactment of the Irish Maritime Area Planning Act (the "MAP Act") on 23 December 2021. This update examines the key next steps for Irish Offshore Renewables and the status of developments in the Irish offshore and onshore electricity generation sector more generally.
IRISH OFFSHORE WIND DEPLOYMENT - CURRENT STATUS AND UPCOMING DATES
As you may know, the MAP Act launched a new Maritime Area Consent ("MAC") permitting regime to replace the current system of foreshore consents and it extends the planning permission system to the entire 'maritime area' for Ireland's offshore wind market. Secondary legislation will be put in place in Q1 2022 giving effect to certain provisions of the MAP Act, so the implementation process remains underway.
For background, following a public consultation in 20201, the Government published a policy statement in April 2021 adopting a three-phased approach to offshore wind deployment2. The MAC consenting regime is the first phase and it promises to streamline the offshore wind development process. The MAC will assess the viability of developers based on various categories including financial and technical competency.
The MAC application window is expected to open to Relevant Projects in April 2022. The assessment of these applications is expected to be completed within the 90-day timeline as set out in the MAP Act and first MACs are expected to be granted by Q3 2022. Upon receipt of a MAC, the projects will be eligible to apply for development permission from An Bord Pleanála ("ABP"). This process will include full statutory consultation and environmental assessment processes.
Under the special transition provisions in the MAP Act, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications (the "Minister") will be responsible for assessing and granting MACs for Phase One projects (ie, the announced 'Relevant Projects'). In Phase Two, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority ("MARA") will be established and operational from 2023, taking over the responsibility for managing any MACs that have been granted and the assessment of future applications. See Figure 2 setting out the indicative offshore wind timeline.
The first offshore wind specific subsidy auction in Ireland, ORESS 1, shall open in Q4 2022 and is expected to be the main, if not exclusive, route to market for Phase One projects (see Figure 1 illustrating the route to market for Phase One projects). Project eligibility for ORESS 1 will be contingent on receipt of both a MAC and a Grid Connection Assessment.
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