Thursday, 16 December 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
5. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he intends to update the national ports policy; when he will designate ports on the east, south and west coasts for the construction and development of offshore wind projects and allocate investment for the upgrades required; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62649/21]
When does the Minister of State intend to update the national ports policy? When will she designate ports on the east, south and west coasts for the construction and development of offshore wind projects and allocate investment for the upgrades required?
In addition to the primary function of our commercial State ports to facilitate maritime transport, the national ports policy 2013 also recognises the role ports can also play in servicing the offshore renewable energy, ORE, sector and the need for further port capacity in this area. The programme for Government has set a target for 70% of electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030 and for 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030. The climate action plan, published on 4 November 2021, has since increased the target to 80% renewable electricity by 2030. Both plans also set out how Ireland will take advantage of the potential of at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind power in our deeper waters in the Atlantic.
Given Ireland’s increased ambition in ORE and pending a review of the overall national ports policy in 2022, my Department, in conjunction with the Irish Maritime Development Office, conducted an assessment of the options for Irish State ports to facilitate the ORE sector and assist in Ireland achieving its emission reduction targets. Taking account of the conclusions and recommendations of that assessment, I have decided that a multi-port approach will be required to address the needs of the ORE industry and a policy statement will be issued in the near future setting out this approach. ORE will develop in phases on the east, south, south-west and west coasts, and a multiple of ports will be required to provide facilities for the different activities at several locations around the country and at different times for the various phases of the fixed and floating ORE developments. This multi-port approach will help maximise the economic benefits at regional as well as national level in terms of the creation of jobs and new SME enterprise that can support the development of the ORE industry. Funding for ORE-related port infrastructure is available under the connecting Europe funding, CEF, facility which is the funding instrument for the EU's trans-European transport network, TEN-T. My Department is assisting, as appropriate, the eligible TEN-T ports.
The Minister of State said there would be a policy statement in the near future. What sort of timeframe is involved and how soon can we expect to see that? She will know that Carbon Trust and Wind Energy Ireland identified more than 12 months ago that no Irish port was ready to support the construction of offshore wind farms. They indicated that in the region of €50 to €100 million would need to be invested in one port and the Minister of State is talking about multiple ports. When will the policy statement be ready? The Minister of State also mentioned the CEF. What scale of funding will be required, where will it come from and how soon will it be available?
A policy statement signalling the multi-port approach was prepared in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. That was presented to the Cabinet committee on environment and climate change on 8 December and went to Government on 14 December. The policy statement is in line with the existing national ports policy, which recognises the role of commercial State ports in servicing offshore renewable energy. The policy statement reiterates that position and signals the Government’s commitment to ORE developers on the provision of port facilities in Ireland. On the opportunities around this, a multi-port approach will help to maximise the economic benefits at a regional and national level. The Department is assisting, as appropriate, the eligible TEN-T ports to put forward applications for studies or works related to the provision of offshore renewable energy infrastructure at their ports.
I will go back to the CCAC report about the intention, ambition and policy and the gap between those and implementation. We hear from the sector itself that the window of opportunity is narrow and that we need to act urgently to grasp the opportunity to reach our targets for 2030. We hear from the offshore wind sector, particularly the floating offshore wind sector, that they are concerned with the scale of ambition and the stated ambition in that area. We should act quickly on this, designate those ports and invest in them to harness the opportunity. What is the scale of funding that will be required and how will it be delivered?
The objective of achieving that 5 GW of installed offshore wind by 2030 will be met primarily through the deployment of fixed pile turbines off the east and south-east coasts. This is because of more favourable sea areas with significant water available at depths of under 60 m, combined with proximity to an existing and relatively strong onshore transmission system. It is intended the 5 GW target will be facilitated through two phases of offshore wind deployment with two specific auctions to take place under the renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, 1 and RESS 2. A consultation to inform the approach to the second phase will include the option of including some floating offshore wind as a special category in RESS 2. The significant potential for offshore renewable energy in the Atlantic is not envisaged until later in the decade.
On port timelines, Wicklow Port and Arklow Harbour have entered into arrangements with individual offshore renewable energy project developers to serve as operation and maintenance spaces. Plans are also under way for the deployment of facilities at Rosslare Europort and Cork Dockyard. Drogheda Port is proposing to develop large-scale deepwater port facilities on the east coast, and Shannon Foynes Port Company and the ESB are planning a large-scale redevelopment in the Shannon Estuary at Foynes.