Department of Environment, Climate Change and Communications of Ireland

05/15/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/15/2024 10:15

Ireland, Belgium and the UK increase their cooperation on interconnection and renewables

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, along with his Belgian and UK counterparts, Minister Tinne van der Straeten and Andrew Bowie, have signed a Joint Statement in Bruges, Belgium today, which paves the way for greater cooperation on renewables and interconnection opportunities between the three countries.

Minister Ryan spoke about how a multilateral approach is the only way to address Europe's collective climate responsibilities. For Ireland specifically, he made the point that the most effective way to take advantage of our offshore wind potential over coming decades is to put in place the infrastructure that allows us to access other markets.

Minister Ryan said:

"Increased electricity interconnection is key as we continue to grow our use of renewable energy. One of the best characteristics of renewable energy is that it is, firstly, home grown and accessible to every country. A second key characteristic is that it works best if it can be shared. When we have excess offshore wind capacity in Ireland, for example, it makes sense that we utilise and store what we need but that we can also share our surplus supply with our neighbours through international cooperation and interconnection. It reduces costs, through sharing surplus energy, through sharing reserves and by ensuring the most competitive power sources are used first."

He continued:

"We need to work together to address our collective climate responsibilities, ensuring energy security and price stability, and that is why I am delighted to sign this agreement with the energy ministers in Belgium and the UK to assertively address the need to increase interconnection corridors between our three countries."

The Joint Statement will allow for closer cooperation in offshore wind energy between the three countries. It also builds on the ambition declared at the North Sea Summit, held in Ostend last year and attended by the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Ryan, to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the North Seas, including the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Together, the nine countries involved in the Ostend Declaration have set offshore wind targets of about 120GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 in the North Seas. Today, the North Sea has a combined capacity of less than 30GW.

This renewed cooperation between the three states will also see the establishment of a working group which will produce a report on the shared challenges, opportunities and solutions to developing offshore renewable energy infrastructure. As part of this, EirGrid, in line with Ireland's own interconnection policy, and as part of the development of the country's forward-looking transmission strategy, will engage with its counterparts in Belgium and UK and will report back to their respective ministries with options for trilateral arrangements between the three countries including any challenges related to these options. It is expected that this work will be completed in the first half of 2025.

Belgian Minister Tinne van der Straeten said:

"One year after the North Sea Summit in Ostend, the new cooperation we are exploring today is another step forward in achieving the goal set by the nine participating countries who met and pledged to make the North Seas - including the Atlantic North Seas - as the wind powerhouse for Europe. Our future energy security is renewable but above all our future energy security is shared renewable."

She continued:

"Princess Elisabeth Island will unlock Belgium's second offshore wind zone. It will also serve as a landing point for future hybrid interconnectors. With this partnership, Ireland, the UK and Belgium are realising the ambitions set out at the North Sea Summit in Ostend a year ago: to make the North Sea the largest sustainable power plant in Europe. The key now is to implement the actions to follow through on those ambitions and power our green future. Thanks to this Joint Statement, we can explore a promising opportunity for interconnection between our three countries. This is a valuable addition to the interconnections Belgium is already exploring, such as with the UK, Norway and Denmark, after which we will be able to select the best options for our country."

UK Minister for Nuclear and Renewables, Andrew Bowie said:

"The North Sea has the potential to be a renewable energy powerhouse, and we will always look to collaborate with our neighbours to explore how we can make the most of it. Not only do we share seas with our Belgian and Irish allies, but we share a common interest in cutting emissions and powering our homes with cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy."

The Joint Statement was signed on the sidelines of a Ministerial Meeting on offshore wind energy organised by the Belgian Energy Ministers under the Belgian Presidency.


Notes to the Editor

Ireland's National Policy Statement on Electricity Interconnection launched in July 2023. The policy outlines how a state-directed approach will ensure integrated forward planning, enabling the necessary infrastructure to unlock significant green energy export opportunities.

The key aspects of Ireland's new policy on electricity interconnection include:

  • specifically supporting a further connection to Great Britain by 2030 beyond the completion of the Greenlink Interconnector
  • to provide consideration to the following further projects: a second connection with France beyond the Celtic Interconnector; a connection to Spain; a further connection to Great Britain beyond 2030 and a connection to Belgium or the Netherlands
  • a commitment to develop an Offshore Transmission Strategy and to explore the potential for multipurpose interconnectors, to maximise export opportunities and facilitate offshore renewable energy development
  • the integration of interconnector forward planning with new phases in offshore renewable energy developments, including supporting inputs into proposed Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) at local and regional areas
  • consideration will also be given to further interconnection required to support the export of renewable electricity in the context of other uses, such as green hydrogen

Ireland's interconnection capacity currently stands at 500MW via a single connection to the UK market. Capacity is set to more than treble by 2027, to 1,700MW, which will include a return of direct interconnection between Ireland and the EU via the 'Celtic Interconnector'.

The development of the policy includes the procurement, development and delivery of an external analytical report into Ireland's interconnector needs up to 2050. The analysis contained in the report, which was delivered in February 2023, has been part of the basis for the commitment to consider future links with our geographical neighbours.

A consultation was also held with 21 responses received, primarily from industry. The public consultation respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of the need to develop further interconnection, including hybrid projects, highlighting that further cross-border connectivity would be expected to have a beneficial impact on the achievement of Ireland's climate and energy objectives, including the delivery of offshore renewables.

Ireland's offshore wind ambition

Climate Action Plan 2024 commits to achieving at least 5GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030. A further 2GW is earmarked for the production of green hydrogen and other non-grid uses. Ireland's plan-led approach to delivering our offshore wind targets includes a number of overlapping phases:

  • Phase One, which corresponds to all relevant projects that were successful in the first offshore renewable electricity auction (ORESS 1)
  • Phase Two, an accelerated work programme, focusing on near-term delivery based on technology with proven scalability in other jurisdictions, and which will procure the additional offshore wind capacity required to meet Government's 2030 target and
  • The fully plan-led Future Framework

In May 2023, the results of Ireland's first offshore wind auction, ORESS 1, underscored the State's ambitions within offshore renewable energy. The highly competitive price secured - at an average of €86.05/MWh (megawatt hour) - was one of the lowest prices paid by an emerging offshore wind market in the world. Over 3GW of capacity was procured from four offshore wind projects under ORESS1, which will deliver over 12TWh (Terawatt hours) of renewable electricity per year. This was the largest volume of renewable energy Ireland has ever procured at auction, sufficient to power over 2.5 million Irish homes with clean electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 1 million tonnes by 2030.

Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce

The cross-Government Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce was established by Minister Ryan to ensure a joined-up approach across government, agencies and industry - in co-ordinating the full range of activities required to maximise the economic benefits of offshore wind development to the State. The taskforce is involved in identifying all aspects of work on the critical path to delivery of offshore wind and proactively identifying risks and managing associated mitigation measures. The key actions for 2024 under the Taskforce's Offshore Wind Energy Programme include measures relating to DMAPs and marine planning, biodiversity, grid connection, supply chain, ports policy, skills and workforce, and regulatory consenting.

Climate Action Plan 2024

Climate Action Plan 2024 was approved by Government in December 2023, subject to public consultation and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Climate Action Plan 2024 is the third annual update to Ireland's Climate Action Plan 2019. This plan is the second to be prepared under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and following the introduction of economy-wide Carbon Budgets and Sectoral Emissions Ceilings. The implementation of the Climate Action Plan will create jobs, new economic opportunities and protect people and the planet.

You can view Climate Action Plan 2024 and its annex of actions on the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications website. Click here to subscribe to the Government of Ireland's Climate Action newsletter.