There has been a major change in Irish energy policy during the course of 2018. The recent ground-breaking support structure for renewables, known as RESS1, recognises for the first time that marine renewables have an important part to play in meeting Ireland’s 2030 renewable energy targets. These, in turn, are predicated on a substantial step-up in the decarbonisation of the electricity generating system in particular. This will not be possible from terrestrial wind sources alone while solar energy will make some contribution. The other major change is the introduction and rapid implementation of a National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF), popularly known as Marine Spatial Planning2 (MSP), which is the subject of this Paper.
The NMPF/MSP will influence the framework for all marine developments in future and will have a profound impact over time on all those involved with the sea.
A number of critical issues in marine spatial planning arise from the perspective of the marine renewables emerging technologies of wave, tidal and floating wind energy (and ‘hybrids’ of floating wind and wave) .... not to mention their mature relation, bottom-fixed offshore wind:
1. Zoning, or spatial allocation at sea for various activities, is likely to feature in some way in Irelands marine spatial plan and that is to be welcomed, provided it takes account of a number of core issues dealt with in this Paper.
2. There is undoubtedly going to be an issue with the potential visual impact of offshore wind in particular and one obvious policy possibility would be to introduce a buffer zone to exclude all marine renewables within a specified distance from the coast. We spell out the serious, negative consequences for marine renewable energy with an example of such an initiative. A buffer zone approach should be considered with great care and be locally site specific.
3. There is a need to establish structures which would make it easier to consult and engage with local stakeholders and those potentially impacted by marine renewables development - a long-term partnership in the broad sense is needed between marine renewables developers and other marine interests. 4. There are challenges to be tackled in the areas of data and, also, ports infrastructure. In addition, there is a critical issue for all engaged with the ocean: there is a hyper-urgent need to introduce modern offshore consenting legislation or our globally leading marine renewables energy resources will continue to lie fallow