Posted on January 31, 2024
Meeting the Republic of Ireland’s offshore wind energy targets could reduce carbon emissions, cut electricity bills and create numerous jobs, according to a new report.
But collaboration between government and industry will be needed as well as significant investment.
The report has been launched at Wind Energy Ireland’s annual conference.
It suggests achieving the country’s offshore wind energy goals could bring €38bn (£32m) to the Irish economy.
Part of Ireland’s 2030 Climate Action Plan includes having 5GW installed offshore wind capacity by 2030, to help achieve the target of generating 80% electricity from renewable sources.
The Building our Potential: Ireland’s Offshore Wind Skills and Talent Needs report highlights other industries, such as marine and engineering, where skills may be transferable to offshore wind to meet the demand for workers as well as attracting expats to return.
Minister Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said creating green jobs was a top priority for his department and that developing offshore wind would create greater energy security.
“This report clearly demonstrates the significant economic and social benefits to communities across Ireland, particularly in the shape of new job opportunities,” he said.
“This will shape my department’s work and ambition with stakeholders across government, the public sector, the tertiary education sector, and industry, as we look to build the skills we need to deliver a greener more sustainable future.”
Noel Cunniffe, the chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland, said there was “no limit” to what offshore energy sector could contribute to the economy, with the right support from government, industry and education at all levels.
“It is Ireland’s future economic strategy. Every offshore wind farm means new investment, high quality green jobs and greater energy security,” he said.
“This report identifies, in granular detail, the skills we need over the next two decades to transform our workforce to build not just Ireland’s offshore wind energy future but to compete internationally.”
Energy goals across the island of Ireland are aligned. So both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland share the aim of generating 80% electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
But industry experts have warned that that legally-binding goal is at risk in Northern Ireland, where onshore wind appears to have stalled and there is no offshore generation yet.
Work is continuing to have an offshore proposal ready when the Crown Estate – which owns the seabed – holds another leasing round, as offshore is an important part of the Energy Strategy.
While previous projects have faltered and Northern Ireland was excluded from the last leasing round, a statement of intent has since been signed between the Estate and the Department for the Economy.
With the cost of living crisis, traditional objections may be overcome in the future by the prospect of lower bills, job creation and skills development, not to mention the reduction of emissions.
The new report, compiled by BVG Associates, recommends that the Irish government establish a skills development fund, attract workers from abroad to meet short-term skills gaps, ensure offshore skills are covered in education and build expert knowledge.
And it identifies the expected job opportunities, from early-stage development and project management activities, through to operations, maintenance and service activity, particularly in new floating wind technologies.
Most of Ireland’s wind energy currently comes from onshore farms, with one small offshore development of 25MW.
The country held its first offshore wind auction in 2023, with four winning bids.
A consultation was launched last week on the pathway to meet the long-term offshore energy goals.