Equinor Pulls Out of Ireland's Offshore Wind Market
Norwegian energy company Equinor has taken the unusual decision to abandon the budding Irish offshore wind market, ending a partnership with the nation's Electricity Supply Board (ESB) after just two years.
In 2019, Equinor reached a deal with the ESB to turn the Moneypoint coal-fired power station in County Clare into a hub for offshore wind development, with the capacity to support a 1-1.4 GW floating wind farm. The first phase was scheduled for completion in 2028, with the second coming online in the 2030s. The plan called for a large-scale green hydrogen production and storage facility as well.
The project was active as recently as February 2021, when Equinor and ESB announced that they were applying for a foreshore license for the site with Ireland's Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. However, that has changed: Equinor has not only halted its participation in the Moneypoint project, but has pulled out of the Irish market altogether.
According to the Irish Examiner, sources close to the decision cited "dissatisfaction with the regulatory and planning regime that currently exists for offshore energy development." A spokesperson for Equinor declined to provide details.
"Following a review by Equinor of its strategy to develop profitable growth in renewables they decided to stop their early phase offshore wind activities in Ireland, in part due to local regulatory uncertainty," confirmed the ESB in a statement.
Ireland's legislature is currently finalizing a new maritime spatial planning and permitting law, which is expected to pass in December and take effect over the next several years. That may not be fast enough to keep up with the pace of the global offshore wind industry, which is also pursuing opportunities in continental Europe, the UK, the Americas and East Asia.
"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," warned Noel Cunniffe, the CEO of industry association Wind Energy Ireland. "This is leading to a lack of confidence in the industry and our international supply chain that Government must address."
However, Irish Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan told RTE that the outlook for Ireland's offshore wind sector is still positive.
"We want as many different developers as possible and there are a huge number coming in. Some are pulling out; we note and listen to what they're saying," Ryan said.