Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy


The Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP)
Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) published in 2014 highlights Ireland’s focus on stimulating industry-led projects for the development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems. The OREDP identifies resources for increasing indigenous production of renewable electricity, contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, improving the security of energy supply and creating jobs in the green economy in Ireland. The OREDP sets out key principles, policy actions and enablers for the delivery of Ireland's significant potential in this area. In 2021, work commenced on a new OREDP, which will be completed to quantify the offshore renewable energy potential in Ireland’s maritime area. The availability of more marine data, and the development in the ocean energy technologies including floating offshore wind are among the key drivers for an updated OREDP. The OREDP II will also provide an evidence base for the designation of candidate Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) areas, suitable for deployment of offshore renewable energy, under the Maritime Area Planning Act, 2021. The OREDP II will be an important planning tool as Ireland transitions from a developer-led to a plan-led regulatory regime. As indicated in the Climate Action Plan 2021; Action 116; the new OREDP will be completed by the end of 2022.

National Energy and Climate Plan
In accordance with EU law, Ireland’s draft National Energy & Climate Plan (NECP) 2021-2030 was submitted to the European Commission in December 2018. The draft NECP took into account energy and climate policies developed up to that point, the levels of demographic and economic growth identified in the Project 2040 process and included all of the climate and energy measures set out in the National Development Plan 2018-2027.
In 2019, the NECP was updated to incorporate all planned policies and measures that were identified up to the end of 2019 and which collectively deliver a 30% reduction by 2030 in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (from 2005 levels). Trajectories for ocean energy production in Ireland of 30 MW by 2030 and 110 MW by 2040 are included in this Plan.

Climate Action Plan
In 2021, Ireland launched an updated and amended version of the Climate Action Plan, which was initially published in 2019. The Climate Action Plan 2021 represents the path to achieve the national commitments of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050 at the latest. It provides a detailed plan for taking decisive action to achieve a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and setting us on a path to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, as committed to in the Programme for Government and set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act, 2021. The Plan lists the actions needed to deliver on our climate targets and sets indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy. It reflects the ambitious targets set in 2020 through the Programme for Government to progress offshore energy in Ireland including a target to achieve 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and achieving 80% renewable electricity by 2030. There is a further commitment in the Programme for Government to develop a longer-term plan to utilise the potential 30 GW of offshore floating wind power in our Atlantic waters.
There are four actions that are specifically relevant to the development of offshore renewables and require Ireland to develop legislation, a new consenting system, a dedicated offshore Renewable Energy Supporting Scheme (RESS) auction, and support ocean energy research and development infrastructure.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) provides support to renewable electricity projects in Ireland. With a primary focus on cost effectiveness, the RESS delivers a broader range of policy objectives, including:

  • Providing an Enabling Framework for Community Participation through the provision of pathways and supports for communities to participate in renewable energy projects.
  • Increasing technology diversity by broadening the renewable electricity technology mix.
  • Delivering an ambitious renewable electricity policy to 2030.
  • Increasing energy security, energy sustainability and ensuring the cost effectiveness of energy policy.

The final results of the first Onshore RESS auction (RESS-1) were approved by Government in September 2020. The overall successful volume in RESS-1 is 2,237GWh of shovel ready renewable electricity projects. This equates to 479 MW of onshore wind and 796 MW of solar. A considerable saving on the previous REFIT scheme has been achieved. Solar energy accounted for approximately 34% of the overall auction energy volume. Seven out of eight qualified community projects were successful. These projects are required to commence operation before 2023 at the latest.
In Q4 2021, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) has opened a consultation on the first auction to supply electricity from offshore wind under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1). The first offshore auction will be a major step towards meeting the Irish Government’s goals of up to 80% renewable electricity by 2030, with 5 GW coming from offshore wind. It will also support achievement of the objectives set out under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act, 2021 and the measures set out in the Climate Action Plan 2021. At least three offshore auctions are currently planned. Due to the relatively long development timelines of offshore wind projects, only the first two of these auctions can be expected to contribute towards Ireland’s 2030 5 GW installed capacity target.


SEAI Research, Development Demonstration Fund

The SEAI National Energy Research Development and Demonstration (RD&D) Funding Programme invests in innovative energy RD&D projects which contributes to Ireland's transition to a clean and secure energy future. The key programme objectives include the following:
  • Accelerate the development and deployment in the Irish marketplace of competitive energy-related products, processes and systems
  • Support solutions that enable technical and other barriers to market uptake to be overcome
  • Grow Ireland's national capacity to access, develop and apply international class RD&D
  • Provide guidance and support to policy makers and public bodies through results, outcomes and learning from supported energy projects
Calls are run annually to encourage projects from all renewable technologies. In 2021, there were 16 offshore energy projects granted funding under the RD&D with an approximate budget of €7M. The 2022 RD&D call is planned to open in Q1, 2022 where applicants can submit their applications under one of the different categories of the call.

Consenting processes

Update: March 2022

Over the course of 2021, there has been significant progress made in relation to policy for offshore renewable development. Ireland’s ambitions for the offshore renewable energy sector are contingent on delivering an effective and efficient licensing and regulatory regime for offshore renewable energy. This will provide certainty to project promoters and provide a pathway to realising the necessary investment in offshore renewable energy.

The National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF) is Ireland’s first comprehensive marine spatial plan, and was formally launched by the Irish Government in July 2021. The NMPF brings together all marine-based human activities for the first time, outlining the Government’s vision, objectives and marine planning policies for each marine activity. The NMPF sets out the Irish Government's long-term planning objectives and priorities for the management of our seas over a 20-year time frame. It also sets out specific objectives and marine planning policies for all the activities taking place in Ireland's seas, from aquaculture to wastewater treatment. All these activities are contextualised within the pillars of their economic, environmental and social considerations. The NMPF sets out the proposed future approach to the adoption of spatial designations for marine activities including offshore renewable energy development, whilst taking account of the existing network of designated European sites under the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The Maritime Area Planning Act, 2021 (MAPA) was signed into law in December 2021. MAPA largely replaces the provisions of the Foreshore Acts, 1933-2011 and will enable the planning and regulation of marine development beyond 12 nautical miles for the first time. It provides the legal basis for our new marine planning system, a statutory marine planning policy statement, the creation of a new Maritime Regulatory Authority, a new consenting process and provisions relating to enforcement. Development of the Act was led by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) leading on the provisions specific to offshore renewable energy.
MAPA applies from the mean high water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf. It streamlines consenting processes through using a single consent principle: one State consent known as a Maritime Area Consent (MAC), that enables occupation of the Maritime Area, and one development consent (roughly similar to planning permission), with a single environmental assessment, to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.
The Act will enable the establishment of a new independent agency, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA). When established MARA will be responsible for granting all MACs in the maritime area, for granting maritime licences for specific scheduled activities (including environmental surveys), ensuring compliance with the overall Act and taking enforcement measures, and will assume responsibility for managing the existing State Foreshore portfolio of leases and licences. MARA is expected to be operational by Q1, 2023 and will be based in Wexford.
When a developer has successfully obtained a MAC, projects will then be eligible to apply for development permission, directly from An Bord Pleanála (ABP). This process will include full statutory consultation and environmental assessment processes, including those deriving from the EU Habitats Directive, where applicable. Application for development permission is not required for ORESS 1 eligibility or a Grid Connection Assessment (GCA).

The competent authorities involved in offshore renewable energy projects are:

  • Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) – responsible for marine spatial planning and marine legislation and policy.
  • Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) – responsible for energy policy including establishing the legislation and regulatory regime for offshore renewable energy and transition to a plan-led model,.
  • [forthcoming] Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) – will be responsible for granting Maritime Area Consents; licences for scheduled activities, including environmental surveys; ensuring robust compliance and enforcement measures and managing the existing portfolio of State foreshore licences and leases once the governing legislation is enacted.
  • [forthcoming] An Bord Pleanála (ABP, the Irish national independent planning body) – responsible for granting development consent under the new regime.
  • Local planning authorities – responsible for granting permissions for onshore components and licensing certain marine activities (to be decided).
  • The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) – responsible for authorising and licensing construction of new generating stations and their subsequent operation.
  • EirGrid and ESB – transmission and distribution operators, respectively.

There is no screening for either Environmental Impact Assessment or Appropriate Assessment at the MAC stage, as the MAC process is separate to the development consent process, which will be made directly to ABP.

At the development consent stage a full environmental impact assessment will be undertaken by the developer and submitted to An Bord Pleanála for their assessment. 

The Maritime Area Planning Act is fulling compliant with the provisions of the EU’s Public Participation Directive (2003/35/EC) and Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. 

The following guidance exists:

  • Guidance for Authorisation to Construct and License to Generate are available on the Commission for Energy regulation website.
  • Guidance on Marine Baseline Ecological Assessments & Monitoring Activities for Offshore Renewable Energy Projects Parts 1 [General] and 2 [Technical] (April 2018) Available from:
  • Guidance on Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Natura Impact Statement (NIS) Preparation for Offshore Renewable Energy Projects is also available from the same link above.

Ireland provides test sites that facilitate the testing and development of wave, tidal and offshore wind energy technology at all technology readiness levels (TRL). Ongoing improvement and expansion of Ireland’s test and demonstration facilities are key to the Ocean Energy goals in Ireland. Current facilities cover all Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) from 1 – 9 and are detailed below:
Lir National Ocean Test Facility
The Lir National Ocean Test Facility (NOTF) is a world-class centre for renewable energy and marine research, located in the UCC Beaufort Building in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. Lir is a custom-designed test facility that features upgraded and expanded tanks and equipment for the testing of small-scale Ocean Energy renewable devices with TRL ranging from 1 to 4. Lir is an essential part of Ireland’s Ocean Energy research and testing infrastructure and provides a significant launch pad for both national and international marine renewable energy developers. Testing infrastructure includes:

  • A Deep Ocean Wave Basin (circa 1:15 scale testing).
  • The Open Ocean Emulator, an ocean wave basin with a sophisticated 2-sided paddle system and a two-sided absorption system (circa 1:50 scale testing).
  • A wave and current flume with coastal/tidal testing capabilities (circa 1:50 scale testing) and a wave demonstration flume.
  • Mechanical and electrical workshops.
  • Electrical testing infrastructure, including a smart grid and a series of linear and rotary rigs used to test power take-off and energy storage. 

Galway Bay Test Site
The Galway bay Test Site is located on the north side of Galway Bay, 2.4km southeast of Spiddal village, which is located 19km west of Galway city. The area of the site is 37 hectares and it has water depths of 21-24 metres. The test site area is demarcated by four cardinal marks, one at each corner. The test site facilitates the open sea deployment of a quarter to half scaled prototypes of Wave Energy Converters (WEC’s) with TRL ranging from 4 to 6. The Marine Institute (MI) with support from SEAI has been developing the Ocean Energy Test Site since 2006. Real-time oceanographic data, time-series data and full spectral data are available on the Galway Bay dashboard and the Marine Institute’s Data Request service.
Atlantic Marine Renewable Energy Test Site (AMETS)
The Atlantic Marine Energy Test site in Belmullet Co. Mayo is being developed by SEAI in order to test full scale pre-commercial offshore energy technologies with TRL ranging from 7 to 9. The development of the AMETS has progressed steadily over the last decade. The following consents and planning permissions have been put in place for the site:

  • The ESB connection agreement is in place since 2011.
  • The foreshore lease for the AMETS and deployment of the offshore cable; awarded in 2015 for wave energy devices. 
  • Planning permission the electrical substation, awarded in April 2017.

Since 2018 the main focus for the site has been the INTERREG NWE funded AFLOWT project (Accelerating market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology). The project will support site development includes onshore civil works for substation build and grid reinforcements and offshore works for electricity export cable deployment.

The OES is organised under the auspices of the International Energy Agency (IEA) but is functionally and legally autonomous. Views, findings and publications of the OES do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the IEA Secretariat or its individual member countries.