Energy Tsar is needed to deliver an ambitious offshore wind plan

The government must immediately appoint a czar for offshore wind energy if it is to meet any significant portion of its 2030 targets.

Many ambitions are fine and dandy – but until we see radical changes in how offshore wind projects are carried out, there is little reason to be optimistic that these will ever be anything but pipe dreams.

Last week, the nine European states that make up the North Seas Energy Co-operation (NESC) group pledged to generate 10 percent of Europe’s electricity from wind power by 2030, which is 28 GW to 300 GW. To mark the occasion, Ireland reiterated its claim that by 2030 we would generate 7GW of electricity from offshore turbines.

Without a complete rethink of offshore wind project delivery, Ireland has no hope of delivery.

Just ask those who work in the industry. Just last week, a poll found that 69 percent of offshore wind energy professionals believe the targets are either “extremely challenging” or “completely unrealistic.”

While our neighbors spur energy development and effectively move away from fossil fuels to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, the Irish government’s back-to-back actions have made us fossil-fuel dependent – ​​while facing astronomical price increases, blackouts and general energy insecurity.

Worse, from today’s perspective, it appears that the ministries and agencies tasked with delivering offshore wind projects and building a domestic supply chain are repeating the same mistakes made by neighboring countries instead of learning from them.


“An offshore wind energy tsar with a sole focus on working with departments and regulators to ensure this burgeoning indigenous industry can thrive might be the best approach,” says Farra Marine’s Martin Rice

While we cooperate with the eight other members of the NESC in issuing press releases about unrealistic goals, we are in direct competition with them when it comes to the increasingly scarce resources needed to achieve those goals.

take skills. There is currently a significant shortage of skilled workers for offshore wind. This is a new industrial area. My own company, Farra Marine, had to look around Europe to find executives with the right experience.

We need an immediate and focused effort to ensure we bring new people into the industry. We need an Offshore Opportunities Roadshow to tour the country and explain what vacancies are emerging and what qualifications are needed.

Sustainable energy projects, which typically have a lifespan of around 20 years, create sustainable jobs. Across Europe, many roles are filled by our own Irish. Let’s bring her home and use her skills here.

Government positions must be staffed with the expertise needed to achieve the goals. The same departments have to get out and visit other countries to see how they deal with it. This is new territory for everyone – but some countries seem better able to navigate it than others.

While Enterprise Ireland prioritizes renewable energy projects, it has a very narrow focus. Turbines don’t just appear on their own. There is a necessary ecosystem.

IDA Ireland has been very successful in doing this in FDI, but it appears that this lesson has not been learned when it comes to supporting entire domestic sectors as opposed to individual companies. We need to rethink how we support the Irish companies needed to realize the potential of offshore wind energy.

Another challenge is where the ships needed to build and maintain offshore turbines will come from. This is an issue close to our hearts as our company is one of the main suppliers of these ships across Europe.

Just last week, industry players in Ireland heard from leaders across Europe of significant offshore wind vessel shortages. You would have a hard time leasing a vessel for offshore wind farms this side of 2025. Try building an offshore wind farm without them.

Ireland has a major opportunity in offshore renewable energy – but requires rapid change. Government bodies such as the Marine Survey Office need to be proactive in creating ship code codes and classes that have already been adopted across Europe.


‘Without a complete rethink of offshore wind project delivery, Ireland has no hope of delivery’

These vessels have evolved from very small fiberglass units to multi-engine, multi-role vessels capable of carrying 24 technicians and 20 tons of cargo. There are very specific developer requirements to be met – but we don’t have any plans for now.

None of this is particularly complicated or challenging. We need the right people, the right regulation, the right infrastructure, the right boats and the right policies to support tribal businesses.

Thing is, we need them all now.

An offshore wind energy tsar with its sole focus on working with departments and authorities to ensure this burgeoning indigenous industry can thrive might be the best approach.

Offshore wind can provide the low-cost, stable electricity prices much needed by Irish consumers and businesses alike. Look around Europe and you will see the tremendous benefits the industry is bringing to economies and coastal communities.

Now is the time to accelerate offshore wind power development, remove obstacles and support the industry. Our energy sovereignty depends on it. If we don’t, we risk entering a darkness of failure.

Martin Rice is CEO of Farra Marine, a provider of crew transport vehicles to the offshore wind energy sector Energy Tsar is needed to deliver an ambitious offshore wind plan

Fry Electronics Team

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