Government opens consultation on Maritime Area Consent for ORE

On 19 January, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD launched a consultation on important aspects of the new Maritime Area Consent (MAC) State consent regime for offshore renewable energy (ORE).

This follows the publication of the full text of the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act 2021 in August last year, which seeks to establish a development management regime from the high-water mark to the outer limit of Ireland’s continental shelf. The new system will incorporate consent for the occupation of the maritime area, through MACs and licencing, and establish a new agency, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), to manage the occupation of the maritime area and to enforce the provisions of the regime.

The MAP Act is expected to help deliver the government’s climate targets outlined under the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2021, including an increase to the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030 and an increased target to achieve up to 5GW of installed offshore wind generation by 2030. The government states that the 5GW target will be primarily met through development of offshore renewable energy (ORE) in Ireland’s eastern and southern coastal regions.

To facilitate this, one of the main features of the MAP Act is the creation of the MAC as a first step in the new planning process. Under the special transition provisions in the act, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications will have the responsibility for assessing and granting MACs for a first phase of offshore projects, which satisfy the definition of “relevant maritime usage” under the act, after which the then-established MARA will be responsible for granting MACs.

The purpose of this consultation is to:

  • Set out the proposed approach to MAC assessment for Relevant Projects.
  • Provide important information on various aspects of the new MAC regime for Relevant Projects.
  • Invite feedback from interested stakeholders on the proposed approach to the assessment of Phase One MAC applications.

In establishing an approach to MAC assessment, the consultation states it is proposed that the applicant will be required to provide high-level information on the nature of the project and how it aligns with policy, but not project specific details. It is indicated that this could require applicants to submit information including a short statement outlining how the project helps meet 2030 climate targets, including consistency with targets set out in CAP 2021, the National Marine Planning Framework, or other national ORE policies. Other required information may consist of expected Maximum Export Capacity (MEC) of the final development and maximum energy output, expressed in GWh/annum, indicative timelines, including proposed start and duration of project energisation, and the proposed wind turbine technology.

The consultation also proposes that any developers seeking a MAC application will have to provide information on the geographic boundaries of a proposed project. This is likely to include geographic coordinates of the area under application, the proposed coordinates of the transmission cable route, a statement that the coordinates of the MAC application are within the coordinates of the original Foreshore Lease application, and the total size in kilometres squared of the MAC area under consideration, including any cable routes.

It is highlighted that in undertaking its financial assessment of a MAC application, the Relevant Authority will have the right to request further information in any of the financial assessment areas and undertake a more detailed review of the Relevant Person’s financial viability. The consultation states that the outcome of the financial assessment will be considered together with other factors taken into consideration by the Relevant Authority in respect of an application for a MAC and conditions that may be attached to a MAC under the Act.

For each of the above criteria proposed for a MAC application, the consultation is seeking feedback on whether they are appropriate and if stakeholders have any further suggestions for suitable criteria.

Cathal Ryan, Consultant at Cornwall Insight, commented “Marine area consenting in Ireland has been slow and this consultation needs careful consideration to change the process. With the relevant projects chomping at the bit to proceed with environmental impact assessment this should be clarified throughout the consultation and decision process. Provided it is done in a timely manner, this is a welcome step, however, the establishment of the MARA in tandem with assessing the relevant projects needs to be resourced adequately.”

Related thinking

Low carbon generation

Blowin’ in the Wind: Is offshore wind the answer to Ireland’s net zero future?

As Ireland works towards achieving net zero by 2050, there is a pressing need to develop additional renewable energy capacity. Offshore wind is likely to be a particularly important sector and, thanks to Ireland’s large offshore exclusive economic zone, presents a valuable opportunity for the Irish economy. Cognisant of this...

Regulation and policy

Calm after the storm although transition begins to lag | 2023 year in review

This year saw a return to relative calmness after the energy shocks of last year, while governments are playing an increasing role as the rate of new renewable generation lags. Spot pricing was subdued compared to last year, with no significant unexpected outages that caused sustained price spikes. Higher levels...

Net zero corporates and ESG

Race to net zero: Rebuilding investor confidence in the UK

In our recent insight paper “Race to net zero: Rebuilding investor confidence in the UK”, published on 30 November, we discuss how increased macroeconomic pressures and rising international competition for capital have impacted the UK’s ability to secure investment in renewables and maintain momentum towards net zero. We also investigate...

Net zero corporates and ESG

Long-term regulatory and policy changes needed to avoid stalls to business decarbonisation

In light of the financial pressures faced by businesses from rising inflation and interest rates, tight supply chains and labour markets, alongside high energy bills, there is a high chance corporate investment in decarbonisation could be in trouble. In Cornwall Insight's latest Insight paper “Business net zero: Making progress in...

Commercial and market outlook

Winter 2023-24 price cap forecasts fall further below 2022-23 EPG, but long-term prospects remain uncertain

The predictions for the Default Tariff Cap in this piece are out of date, please click here to find our latest forecasts and commentary on the cap. Our latest forecasts for the Default Tariff Cap (price cap) have shown energy bill predictions for a typical household1 have fallen to £3,208...

Commercial and market outlook

Tales of the unexpected: what’s happening with gas prices

The gas sell-off for contracts relating to this winter/spring & coming summer has continued in the last few days. On January 16th alone, contracts closed down c15%-17% on gas contracts for this spring and through into summer. This is despite some analysts predicting that gapping-up would occur on the promise...

Business supply and services

Early implications of the Energy Bill Discount Scheme  

People are beginning to take in the changes from the business Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) to the Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) that are scheduled for the end of March. As we outlined in our release earlier in the week, the government support is to be scaled back significantly....

Business supply and services

Our response to the announcement of the Energy Bill Discount Scheme 

The government have announced that the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) will be replaced by a less supportive Energy Bill Discount Scheme (EBDS) from April 2023. The government have been managing expectations on reducing support levels for business energy costs now for several months and remain under pressure over control...