LIMERICK Chamber CEO Dee Ryan has said that the decision by Equinor to withdraw from its floating offshore wind and Moneypoint joint venture with ESB is a blow to Ireland’s efforts to address climate change and, separately, hugely disappointing news for economic development and employment creation in the Mid West region.
Responding to the news earlier this week, Ms Ryan said, “On the day that government unveils its Climate Action Plan, this news is a wake-up call for policy makers as it signals how far away from energy independence and net-zero emissions we are. Equinor, in withdrawing from this joint venture, has sent a clear message to the global industry about Ireland’s preparedness for capitalising on its floating offshore wind opportunity and becoming global renewable energy hub.
“A mere seven months ago there was much celebration as this same company, a world leader in floating offshore wind generation, committed to a project that would deliver enough renewable energy to power over 1.5 million homes. Today we get the news that they have pulled out completely and, no doubt, will be taking their expertise and investment elsewhere. The question has to be asked, how has this been allowed to happen?
“The global race to harness offshore renewable energy has begun and Ireland, not least here on the West coast, should be leading because of our unrivalled natural assets. We should be in early-stage planning for a green energy revolution off the west coast of Ireland that would open the flood gates for unprecedented investment in related projects but instead we are back at the starting line.”
Ms Ryan continued: “That this project has fallen due to regulatory uncertainty is an inditement of our lack of readiness as a nation to seize an opportunity that, in the fullness of time, can transform our climate change challenge into an unprecedented climate change opportunity.
“The investor has walked away because it was not willing to wait the time expected for a workable framework to be put in place. In doing so its withdrawal also reflects a worrying message from the wider offshore renewable investment community that Ireland is not ready for business despite having this world-class opportunity.”
Ms Ryan said that while the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) to preside over offshore renewable energy is welcome, it is going to take two years to come into effect and this is far too long.However, there are, she said, measures that can be taken in the interim.
“The establishment of MARA is a welcome initiative but it’s taking far too long. While that is happening there are measures that can be taken to protect this opportunity, at minimum we should be facilitating interested parties to conduct surveys and site investigation of potential sites ahead of the initiation of the regulatory framework. These surveys could run in parallel with the timeframe required to establish MARA and, therefore, enable investors to hit the ground running once the framework is in place.
“Companies such as Equinor, who were here because of the opportunity, will go elsewhere because of the uncertainty and the government must address this as a matter of urgency.
“This decision by Equinor also reaffirms the need for the establishment a Shannon Estuary task force to give a voice to and act as a movement for change so that we can realise this incredible opportunity. Bureaucracy cannot deny this opportunity.”