Nine European Union coastal states signed a “historic” declaration in Dublin on Monday that commits them to create enough renewable wind energy to supply 10 per cent of the Union’s needs by 2050.
The Dublin Declaration was described by the Ministers as a “peace project of our time”. It will make offshore wind energy one of the major sources of power in Europe and help the union reduce its dependency on Russian gas and fossil fuels.
The nine states are members of the North Seas Energy Co-operation (NSEC) of which Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan is the outgoing president.
The Declaration has set a target of 300 Gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030, over ten-times the current level of 28GW. If that ambition is achieved, it will provide 10 per cent of the EU’s energy needs.
Mr Ryan was speaking at a press conference at the headquarters of the Commissioners for Irish Lights in Dún Laoghaire. He was accompanied by the Dutch energy minister, Rob Jetten, who will succeed him as president of NSEC.
Both Ministers said an intermediate target of 73GW had been set for 2030.
At present some 28GW of power is generated from offshore wind. Of that, 25GW is in the North Sea with a further 3GW in the Baltic Sea. The UK currently generates a total of 15GW of offshore energy, most of which comes from giant turbine farms fixed on shallow banks off the Northeast coast of England.
Mr Ryan said the NSEC would be working closely with the UK on developing the networks, interconnectors and grids of offshore power, even though it was no longer in the EU. He said the same applied to Norway.
“We are committed to working with the UK despite all the difficulties there with the protocol. We clearly understand that in the electricity interconnected market we have, we have to work with the UK.”
Mr Jetten said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been “a true wake-up call that we have been over dependent on fossil fuels and we’ve been overly dependent on imports of cheap energy from Russia.
“The North Sea is actually the region to become the energy power hub for the whole EU: 85 per cent of our wind ambition for the EU can be realised here.”
Mr Ryan said that the technology and capacity to provide ocean power at speed and scale was now in place. He said there were pressures on cabling, steel and other infrastructure but argued that “offshore wind comes in at a fraction of fossil fuel alternative. If we deliver 300Gw, it’s roughly 10 per cent of European energy supply.
“And that’s not insignificant when you mix that with solar power from the South and hydro power from the Alps and Scandinavia.”
There is no offshore wind power being generated in Ireland at present. Mr Ryan said that Ireland would be in a position to supply 7 GWs of the 2030 target.
“That’s the right target. We have in place the right system to deliver it. We’ll start the auction process dn the first phase in the autumn. So this is very real,” he said. He accepted the timeline would be very challenging.
“With the energy crisis, we have to deliver, in planning as well as elsewhere. That does not mean you cannot still be focused on good environmental standards. It’s critical that we get that balance right.”
Asked about the EU ministerial plan for a windfall tax on the excessive profits of power generators and fossil fuel companies — arising out of the energy crisis — the Minister said an agreement would be reached on that issue by the end of the month. Mr Ryan said the decision would quite likely be made after the Budget but the Government here would be aware of the direction of travel before then, in terms of framing the Budget here.
Mr Ryan said a consultant’s study on energy storage options would be delivered this week. It will look not just at gas but also at other forms of storage, such as battery, he said.
He said that in terms of gas storage, the direction would be towards the State managing the storage rather than private companies. Sources also said that the gas stored would be existing forms of natural gas, from the Corrib field and also from the UK. It will not include fracked gas, nor will there be a need for a facility to process it. A proposed LNG terminal on the Shannon Estuary has been fiercely opposed by leading Green Party representatives.