Wednesday, 11 November 2020
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Wind Energy Generation
44. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to ensure that fishing communities are consulted on the development of any offshore wind energy projects and the way the principles of a just transition will be applied; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35748/20]
Ireland has some of the best offshore renewable energy resources in the world and realising this potential will be vital to the achievement of our 2030 and 2050 climate and energy ambitions. To realise the enormous potential of the offshore energy sector while ensuring a just transition will require fully coordinated support across civic society and government, from public acceptance, research and development, through supply chain development, to commercial deployment. The environmental and other impacts of offshore renewables must be managed in line with international obligations and best practice to support maximum social acceptance. Offshore wind energy projects are subject to several legislative and consenting considerations, which must be satisfied for a site to progress through planning and development, construction and commissioning.
My Department is working closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the development of the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill which will provide a modern, up-to-date regulatory and marine planning framework for offshore renewable energy developments. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is also in the process of finalising Ireland’s first marine spatial plan, the National Marine Planning Framework. The Department has been guided by a Marine Spatial Planning Advisory Group throughout this process, chaired by the Minister for State, and made up of a large number of stakeholders representing social, economic and environment groups, including fisheries representatives, as well as relevant public sector organisations. The new regime under the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill and the National Marine Planning Framework will ensure that there is public consultation throughout the various stages of offshore wind development particularly the development consent stage.
As is the case with onshore energy developments supported by the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), all offshore wind energy developments will be required to establish Community Benefit Funds prior to project operation. In order to ensure good governance and effective marine and coastal community involvement in the sustainable use of these funds, a Good Practice Principles Handbook will be published by the Minister or a nominated body.
Together with officials from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, officials from my Department are actively examining further opportunities for engagement with the fisheries sector, having identified and recognised a need for effective engagement between the seafood and offshore renewable energy (ORE) industries. We are currently evaluating a proposal for the establishment of a seafood industry and offshore renewable energy working group, one of the primary goals of which will be to develop a communications protocol between these two industries. The intention with this is to increase levels of understanding and facilitate constructive engagement between both of these important sectors, in addition to considering relevant issues such as co-existence opportunities, displacement considerations and safety at sea.