Ireland, Belgium and the UK increase their cooperation on interconnection and renewables

[Source: DECC]

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, along with his Belgian and UK counterparts, Minister Tinne van der Straeten and Andrew Bowie, have signed a Joint Statement in Bruges, Belgium today, which paves the way for greater cooperation on renewables and interconnection opportunities between the three countries.

Minister Ryan spoke about how a multilateral approach is the only way to address Europe’s collective climate responsibilities. For Ireland specifically, he made the point that the most effective way to take advantage of our offshore wind potential over coming decades is to put in place the infrastructure that allows us to access other markets.

Minister Ryan said:

"Increased electricity interconnection is key as we continue to grow our use of renewable energy. One of the best characteristics of renewable energy is that it is, firstly, home grown and accessible to every country. A second key characteristic is that it works best if it can be shared. When we have excess offshore wind capacity in Ireland, for example, it makes sense that we utilise and store what we need but that we can also share our surplus supply with our neighbours through international cooperation and interconnection. It reduces costs, through sharing surplus energy, through sharing reserves and by ensuring the most competitive power sources are used first."

He continued:

"We need to work together to address our collective climate responsibilities, ensuring energy security and price stability, and that is why I am delighted to sign this agreement with the energy ministers in Belgium and the UK to assertively address the need to increase interconnection corridors between our three countries."

The Joint Statement will allow for closer cooperation in offshore wind energy between the three countries. It also builds on the ambition declared at the North Sea Summit, held in Ostend last year and attended by the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Ryan, to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the North Seas, including the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Together, the nine countries involved in the Ostend Declaration have set offshore wind targets of about 120GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 in the North Seas. Today, the North Sea has a combined capacity of less than 30GW.

This renewed cooperation between the three states will also see the establishment of a working group which will produce a report on the shared challenges, opportunities and solutions to developing offshore renewable energy infrastructure. As part of this, EirGrid, in line with Ireland’s own interconnection policy, and as part of the development of the country’s forward-looking transmission strategy, will engage with its counterparts in Belgium and UK and will report back to their respective ministries with options for trilateral arrangements between the three countries including any challenges related to these options. It is expected that this work will be completed in the first half of 2025.

Belgian Minister Tinne van der Straeten said:

"One year after the North Sea Summit in Ostend, the new cooperation we are exploring today is another step forward in achieving the goal set by the nine participating countries who met and pledged to make the North Seas – including the Atlantic North Seas – as the wind powerhouse for Europe. Our future energy security is renewable but above all our future energy security is shared renewable."

She continued:

"Princess Elisabeth Island will unlock Belgium's second offshore wind zone. It will also serve as a landing point for future hybrid interconnectors. With this partnership, Ireland, the UK and Belgium are realising the ambitions set out at the North Sea Summit in Ostend a year ago: to make the North Sea the largest sustainable power plant in Europe. The key now is to implement the actions to follow through on those ambitions and power our green future. Thanks to this Joint Statement, we can explore a promising opportunity for interconnection between our three countries. This is a valuable addition to the interconnections Belgium is already exploring, such as with the UK, Norway and Denmark, after which we will be able to select the best options for our country."

UK Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, Andrew Bowie said:

"The North Sea has the potential to be a renewable energy powerhouse, and we will always look to collaborate with our neighbours to explore how we can make the most of it. Not only do we share seas with our Belgian and Irish allies, but we share a common interest in cutting emissions and powering our homes with cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy."

The Joint Statement was signed on the sidelines of a Ministerial Meeting on offshore wind energy organised by the Belgian Energy Ministers under the Belgian Presidency.