Offshore Wind Energy: Ireland’s Savior?

Offshore wind energy mill with a lightbulb

With the COP26 now behind us, just what is the Republic’s plan to improve our appalling ranking in facing climate change? Dáil Éireann passed the Maritime Area Planning Bill on 1 December. The Bill contains an enormous boost to offshore wind energy, but is that the right solution?

How is Ireland performing in renewable energy?

During the last COP26 summit in Glasgow, we discovered Ireland ranked a dismal 46th out of 64 nations in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI).

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This is a seven-place drop from 39th in 2020. As a comparison, the UK ranked 7th this year on the CCPI, a drop of two places from fifth in 2020.

If it is any consolation, the first three positions in the overall ranking remained empty in 2021 as none of the nations taking part performed well enough to achieve a very high rating.

The index ranks the different countries on the following elements:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions (40% of the score)
  • Renewable energy (20%)
  • Energy use (20%)
  • Climate Policy (20%)

The ranking evaluates each countries’ progress in implementing climate-friendly policies which help achieve the Paris Agreement goals.The carbon tax in Ireland would be an example of a climate-friendly policy.

Did you know? The 60 participating countries in the CCPI account for 90% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Why is Ireland performing so poorly on the CCPI?

The nice thing about the CCPI report and rankings is that each country receives a nice outline of why they received such a mark.

In Ireland’s case, they still categorise us as a "very low" performer in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions category and “low" in the Climate Policy category. CCPI experts stated the following:

We acknowledge the progress being made with the new Climate Act and other positive commitments.

However, they also added that the new policies have not yet been fully adopted or implemented.

The aforementioned Maritime Area Planning Bill is the perfect example of this ‘great idea, no action’ approach that has stifled our Nation. The publication of the bill is over two years behind schedule and only now has it passed the Dáil Éireann!

Although another step in the right direction, the Bill still needs to pass the following steps before it is adopted:

  1. Pass before Seanad Éireann.
  2. Committee Stage where amendments to the Bill are made.
  3. Report Stage where the amendments are considered.
  4. Final Stage where last statements on the Bill are made.
  5. Enactment. The President signs the Bill and it becomes law.

If the Bill has taken two years to pass the sixth stage of an eleven-stage process, don’t expect a very high ranking in the CCPI in 2022!

Policymakers need to understand that every month of delay is another month relying on polluting fossil fuels instead of renewable energy.

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Why is the Maritime Area Planning Bill important?

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The bill is important as it includes an audacious project to generate 5GWh of offshore wind energy by 2030.

To put in perspective, in 2019, the entire country consumed 31 TWh of electricity. Therefore, the offshore wind energy farm would account for 1% of the Republic's yearly electricity needs.

Is offshore wind energy efficient?

There are advantages and disadvantages to offshore wind energy compared to land wind turbines. Specifically, these are the following:

  • More consistent winds offshore
  • Large cables required to bring power back to shore
  • Not an eye soarer like land wind turbines
  • Offshore farms are harder to reach in case of malfunction

Is offshore wind energy Ireland's energy savior?

Offshore wind energy will surely help Ireland’s ranking in next year’s CCPI report, but is it the most reliable long-term project Ireland should invest in?

When we consider the Maritime Area Planning Bill will only account for 1% of the electricity consumed in the country, one can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a more potent renewable source of energy available.

On the other hand, having more consistent winds offshore along with the benefit of being ‘out of sight’ makes it difficult to argue against the plan.

Until a better energy source becomes available, the project certainly looks like a step in the right direction for the environment.

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