Norwegian wind giant Equinor is not only pulling out of what would be the Atlantic’s first floating offshore wind farm, it’s also pulling out of doing business in Ireland altogether.
In 2019, Equinor partnered with the Irish utility Electricity Supply Board (ESB). In April, they jointly announced they would build a €2 billion ($2.3 billion) 1.4-GW floating offshore wind farm off the Clare and Kerry coasts, the Atlantic Ocean’s first offshore wind farm, as Electrek reported.
The plan was to turn Moneypoint coal power station in Clare – Ireland’s only coal-fired power station – into a multibillion-euro green energy hub. It was expected to be online within the next 10 years and would supply power to more than 1.6 million Irish homes, according to ESB.
But Equinor has pulled out of the project, and out of Ireland. According to the Irish Examiner, Equinor has abandoned wind plans in Ireland due to “dissatisfaction with the regulatory and planning regime.”
In other words, red tape.
An Equinor spokesperson told the Examiner, “We won’t comment in detail on how much the regulatory process was involved in the company decision.”
The Examiner called Equinor’s departure a “major blow” for offshore wind energy production.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath told Irish radio station Newstalk:
There is a need to change the regulatory and the planning system. We are doing that. We have legislation going through the Oireachtas [legislature] at the moment – The Maritime Area Planning Bill, which for the first time will have a dedicated system in place to address planning issues in respect of all maritime matters, including offshore renewable energy.
We will be backing that up with investment. We will have a renewable energy auction next year in this area and we do expect by 2025 we will see actual offshore renewable developments in place.
McGrath shrugged off Equinor’s departure, saying, “I wouldn’t be too perturbed by that particular development,” because he asserted that there are many companies eager to get into the Irish wind market.
Irish wind industry representative body Wind Energy Ireland CEO Noel Cunniffe said [via the Examiner]:
We are sorry to see one of the world’s leading energy companies pulling out of Ireland, but it is important to remember we still have some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world and a growing pipeline of projects.
But this decision simply underlines what we have been saying for some time. We are not reforming Ireland’s planning and regulatory framework quickly enough to develop the offshore wind we will need to meet the targets in the Climate Action Plan.
This is leading to a lack of confidence in the industry and our international supply chain that Government must address.
Ireland’s goal is to source 80% of its electricity from clean energy by 2030.
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