On the 13th of May, DECC published the framework for Ireland’s future offshore electricity transmission system, which will facilitate the expansion of offshore wind energy. The Government has a target of 5 GW of offshore wind by 2030 and meeting this will require the establishment of a new regulatory consenting regime for the offshore renewable energy sector, a route to market for future offshore projects through technology-specific auctions within the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), and the development of a new framework for Ireland’s future offshore electricity transmission system.
This new policy statement for the framework for Ireland’s offshore transmission system follows a public consultation held in June and July of 2020. The framework provides for a phased transition from the current decentralised offshore transmission system model to a centralised model between now and 2030, to take place in line with three scheduled offshore RESS auctions. The enduring centralised model, with transmission system assets to be planned, developed, owned and operated by EirGrid, has been identified as delivering maximum societal benefits in terms of natural monopoly efficiencies.
The 1st phase of the transition is to coincide with the first offshore RESS auction, it is envisaged that the offshore renewable projects that are successful in the first offshore RESS auction will develop the associated offshore transmission system requirement. Grid development costs will be incorporated into RESS auction bids and ultimately recovered from customers through the PSO levy. The 2nd phase to coincide with the second offshore RESS auction, will see the planning and development of the offshore transmission system may be carried out by either renewable energy projects or EirGrid. The 3rd phase to correspond with the third offshore RESS auction, will see the offshore transmission system be exclusively developed by EirGrid, with maritime areas to be identified by the second Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP II). Successful bids in this 3rd offshore RESS auction will reflect the capital costs of generation assets only and the cost of grid development incurred by EirGrid in this phase will be recovered through network tariffs. The timelines of each phase are contingent on future decisions to be made by the Government and CRU.
EirGrid has been designated the system operator and asset owner of Ireland’s offshore electricity transmission system, and will retain ownership at all stages of the phased transition, regardless of whether the grid has been developed by individual renewable energy projects or EirGrid. Transmission system assets to be owned by EirGrid will include the high voltage transmission circuits and associated onshore and offshore transmission infrastructure connecting offshore generation sites to the existing onshore transmission system, as well as any necessary offshore reinforcements to accommodate electricity flows. Ownership of onshore transmission system assets will remain with ESB.