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The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has welcomed the publication of the Government’s ambitious National Economic Recovery Plan 2021.

The Association, which has long called for an economic restart plan in the wake of Covid-19, believes that the Plan is a key part to the country’s route to a future steeped in sustainable growth, trade and investment.

Yesterday’s announcement bridges the gap of uncertainty that has loomed over businesses small and large for too long and gives businesses direction for longer term planning, which has been overshadowed by world events.

Chief Executive of the Irish Exporters Association Simon McKeever commented: “Exporters have faced untold challenges over the past year with both Covid-19 and Brexit simultaneously altering supply chain operations and trading routes. Yesterday’s announcement will be met with relief, albeit challenges remain and alterations in how businesses trade may become permanent arrangements.

Ensuring that there is a balanced and inclusive recovery as set out in the Plan is appreciated. There is a real opportunity for altered working arrangements to achieve better regional development and indeed contribute to achieving national climate targets.

We particularly welcome that the Plan embraces sustainability and includes it among the four pillars. Decarbonisation is fundamental to achieving the national and indeed the EU aim of carbon-neutrality by 2050. Actions must be taken now to achieve this and the opportunity of reinvigorating the Irish economy through the National Economic Recovery Plan is an apt opportunity.”

Published in Ports & Shipping

A new policy statement from the Government will prevent Ireland from importing fracked gas, which is likely to scupper moves to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Shannon estuary.

The statement, drawn up by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, makes clear “it would not be appropriate to permit or proceed with development of any LNG terminals in Ireland, including the Shannon LNG project” pending a review of the security of energy supply for Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems.

Planning authorities, when assessing any planning application, must have regard to relevant Government policy. A legal ban on the importation of fracked gas cannot be put in place at this time, Mr Ryan said, as doing so would require changes to international rules.

Fracking involves drilling down into the earth and directing a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand into the rock to release gas, which then flows to the head of a well.

Environmental campaigners previously criticised the Government for not having a ban on fracked gas enshrined in the Climate Action Bill, which is currently going to through the Oireachtas.

More on this story from The Irish Times here. 

Published in Shannon Estuary

A special tax credit by the Government is to introduced for sea-going naval personnel from next year.

Serving members of the Naval Service, who spend at least 80 days at sea, will be eligible for the credit worth €1,270 per annum.

It will be introduced into the Dáil by way of an amendment to the Finance Bill tomorrow.

The challenges facing the Defence Forces over pay, conditions, recruitment and retention have been getting increased attention over the past year.

Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe said the introduction of a special tax credit for sea-going naval personnel is a step towards addressing those challenges. 

For more RTE News reports here. 

Published in Navy

It is expected that the Government will announce a new review of pay for up to 2,500 members of the Defence Forces with specialist or technical skills.

The move, writes The Irish Times, will be in addition to the proposed increase in allowances which the Government is set to announce this week as part of an initiative to address recruitment and retention problems in the military.

Ministers are expected to say that the review of military specialists’ pay could be completed within months.

Among those likely to be encompassed by such a review would be cooks, mechanics, technicians, fitters, carpenters, aircraft mechanics, military police investigators and air-traffic controllers.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is to bring proposals to the Cabinet for pay improvements for members of the Defence Forces based on the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission.

The Government is expected to announce a new review of pay for up to 2,500 members of the Defence Forces with specialist or technical skills.

The move will be in addition to the proposed increase in allowances which the Government is set to announce this week as part of an initiative to address recruitment and retention problems in the military.

Ministers are expected to say that the review of military specialists’ pay could be completed within months.

Among those likely to be encompassed by such a review would be cooks, mechanics, technicians, fitters, carpenters, aircraft mechanics, military police investigators and air-traffic controllers.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe is to bring proposals to the Cabinet for pay improvements for members of the Defence Forces based on the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission.

The €10.1 million package of measures will centre on increases in allowances paid to members of the Defence Forces rather than rises in core pay.

Military service allowances, which currently range from €42 to €123 per week, would be raised by 10 per cent as part of a move to improve recruitment and retention of personnel under consideration by the Government.

Reductions in other allowances imposed in 2013 are also expected to be reversed as part of the package.

The patrol duty allowance of €48 per day for Naval Service personnel at sea would also be increased by about €5 under the proposals.

In addition, a loyalty bonus – which could be up to €19,000 – is expected to be put in place to encourage pilots to remain in the Defence Forces.

If approved by the Government, the increased allowances would come into effect immediately.

For more on the story including non-pay initiatives click here. 

In addition as previously featured Naval Patrol vessels including flagship LE. Eithne to be docked out of service due to staff shortage. 

Published in Navy

The Government has paid €1.6 million for a site near Rosslare EuroPort where State inspectors will carry out checks on UK imports in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The purchase price paid by the Office of Public Works (OPW) for the 16-acre site about two kilometres from the southeastern port is revealed in a record released by the State agency under the Freedom of Information Act.

An invoice, released to The Irish Times, by the OPW shows that the State bought the former Renault car import centre from Wexford haulage company Baku GLS in March, just weeks before the UK was originally scheduled to leave the EU at the end of that month.

The €1.6 million cost of the site is part of an overall bill of €7.8 million spent by the State buying land and developing properties at Dublin port, Dublin airport and Rosslare port for post-Brexit border checks.

The State plans to carry out customs, food and animal health checks on goods moving through Rosslare port on lorries and other heavy goods vehicles arriving from Britain in the event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal on the next Brexit deadline of October 31st.

More on the story can be read here. 

Published in Rosslare Europort

#NewsUpdate - An agreement by the Government is set to welcome five unaccompanied minors to Ireland out of a group of migrants who were rescued in recent weeks from the Mediterranean Sea, reports The Irish Times

Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton said they were pleased to announce the move - part of an agreement between eight European countries to assist almost 300 migrants who have been brought to Malta since the start of December - as “as a gesture of solidarity and humanitarian assistance”.

Speaking after discussions between Irish officials, the Maltese authorities and and the European Commission, Mr Flanagan said: “These children have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in humanitarian search and rescue missions and have been through a terrible ordeal.

For more on the story can be read here.

Published in News Update

#GALWAY HARBOUR - Galway Harbour management are looking forward to the prospect of Chinese investment in the port's redevelopment plans, the Galway Independent reports.

“Chinese investors clearly recognise not only the massive potential of ocean tourism, but also the specific potential for Galway as a destination port for cruise liners," said Fine Gael TD Brian Walsh, referring to discussions between the Government and Chinese officials in Beijing last week.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Galway Bay can expect to welcome at least nine cruise visits thus year, with the first scheduled to arrive late next month.

Walsh added: "Galway is an incredibly attractive city, and if we can make it accessible to the major players in the cruise-line market, the impact on the local economy would be immense.”

Galway Harbour Company CEO Eamon Bradshaw said that the port project had "illicited quite a bit of interest" when the company presented at the recent Chinese-Ireland Relations conference at NUI Galway.

"We’re confident that we do have a lot to offer and we are confident that an investor will come on board."

The Galway Independent has more on the story HERE.

Published in Galway Harbour

#COASTAL NOTES - Providence Resources has struck big off the south coast of Cork with an oil flow that could be worth billions of euro to the beleaguered Irish economy.

According to the Guardian, the Dublin-based company announced yesterday that oil had started to flow successfully from its Barryroe structure in the north Celtic Sea at nearly twice the rate previously projected.

Providence Resources CEO Tony O'Reilly Jr said the discovery was a "seminal day for Ireland, especially in the runup to St Patrick's Day."

Last month the firm had confirmed the presence of light oil with its first appraisal well at the site, a situation described by its technical director as "extremely encouraging".

Now that a steady flow has been achieved, future extraction from the oil field - comparable to a medium-to-large North Sea field - can surely proceed, which now puts pressure on the Government to grand permission for further exploration around the Irish coast.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, plans by Providence Rescources to prospect for oil on the east coast off Dalkey Island have been met with fierce opposition by mainland residents and environmental groups.

The Guardian has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastal Notes

#CORK HARBOUR - The Government has finally set a deadline for the clean-up of the toxic waste site on Haulbowline Island in Cork Harbour, under threat of massive fines from the European Commission.

RTÉ News reports that a two-and-a-half year deadline has been set to complete the sanitation of the illegal dump on the island at the site of the former Irish Steel/Ispat plant.

Some 500,000 tonnes of waste, including toxic heavy metals and cancer-causing materials, have been blamed for the area's notoriety in having one of the highest cancer rates in Ireland.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, in October last the Government signed off on a €40m package to begin clean-up of the toxic waste site on the island.

In an editorial yesterday, the Irish Examiner welcomed the Government's decision, but emphasised it was long overdue.

"[It] cannot dispel the great frustration that it has taken so very long to do what should have been done years ago," the paper said.

"To this day nobody has explained how an illegal dump of this scale was allowed to develop on a site that is not exactly secluded, remote or out of the public eye - it is, after all, just next door to the country’s main naval base."

The Irish Examiner also reports on worries that the toxic waste may never be fully removed from the island, but rather sealed off and made impermeable.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney was quoted as saying: "This whole clean-up plan will be peer reviewed so it’s best practice but it could be better to contain the material onsite rather than remove it.

"We will be doing all that is reasonable to ensure the site is safe."

Published in Cork Harbour

#INLAND WATERWAYS - The Ulster Canal restoration project will be funded by Waterways Ireland alone, at least for the time being, according to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Responding in the Dáil to a written question from Cork East Sinn Féin deputy Sandra McLennan, Minister Jimmy Deenihan said that while the previous Government had committed in 2007 to covering the full capital costs of the project, estimated at €35 million, such was no longer viable in the current climate.

"Government accounting procedures do not provide, in that sense, for the ’ring-fencing’ of funds for projects of this nature," said the minister, who added that he was "advised that it was always the intention that the Ulster Canal project would be funded from the Waterways Ireland annual allocations" as well as "projected income from the commercialisation of certain Waterways Ireland assets", though he admitted this had been affected negatively by the economic downturn.

However, Minister Deenihan noted that the project - involving restoration of the canal between Clones in Co Monaghan and Upper Lough Erne - is "progressing incrementally" and that a planning application submitted in October was a "significant milestone".

He also confirmed that he intends "to continue to explore all possible options that may assist in the advancement of this project", which may involve an inter-agency group between the relevant county councils and interested bodies to examine ways of advancing the scheme.

Published in Inland Waterways
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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