Gaps in the rules governing offshore renewable regulation in Northern Irish waters will soon be filled, with the region’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) having published its initial thoughts this week. An offshore renewable energy bill will be drafted later this year.
Details regarding offshore electricity transmission, safety zones and the decommissioning of offshore renewable infrastructure are the three areas of focus of DETI’s document, which is open to public comment until mid-April. In all three cases, DETI proposes that new rules should mirror those already in force in England, Wales and Scotland, in order to provide developers with a consistent policy framework.
The issue of regulation of offshore transmission focuses on whether to allow offshore generators to "build, test and commission a transmission asset" without securing a transmission license. As is the case in other parts of the UK, DETI is minded to exempt generators from being required to hold a license. This reflects the fact that in the UK offshore wind developers are responsible for achieving grid connection, but then sell the asset on once it is operational, making their involvement in offshore electricity transmission a temporary one.
Last autumn, DETI awarded development rights for the region’s first offshore wind farm, a 600MW project that will be developed by First Flight Wind, a consortium created by Dong Energy (50%) and RES Group in partnership with B9 Energy (RES holds a majority of the remaining 50% stake). Northern Ireland has adopted a 40% renewable energy consumption target by 2020.