The consultation seeks views on proposals to increase support for tidal stream electricity generating stations in Northern Ireland waters.
Launching the consultation the Energy Minister said: “2010 has seen significant progress in our plans to develop Northern Ireland’s offshore renewable resources and the momentum will continue into 2011. This consultation is part of that continued progress and should provide confidence that the financial support, necessary for applications under The Crown Estate NI Leasing Round, will be put in place.”
Earlier in 2010, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI), consulted on its draft Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan which proposed targets of at least 600MW of offshore wind and 300MW from tidal resources by 2020. On completion of the Strategic Environmental Assessment process, DETI will finalise the strategic action plan providing the framework for The Crown Estate, as owners of the seabed, to launch a Leasing Round in Northern Ireland waters in spring 2011.
In further preparation for the planned Leasing Round, DETI is currently preparing Regional Locational Guidance, which will help developers by identifying potential opportunities for commercial and test sites, while addressing interactions with the environment and other marine users. In tandem with this, Invest NI is undertaking a feasibility study on test site opportunities in NI waters which could allow developers to test early stage prototypes, particularly in the wave and tidal sector. This is an important development and could lead to Research & Development and prototype development for local companies.
Arlene Foster said: “Our strong offshore resource combined with a long engineering tradition, first class research facilities at our Universities and excellent port infrastructure make Northern Ireland an attractive proposition for offshore renewable development. The Crown Estate Leasing Round planned for 2011 will provide key opportunities for local manufacturing and service sectors to secure offshore energy supply chain business.
“The development of our natural resource will deliver renewable electricity to improve our energy security and diversity and reduce carbon emissions, which is one of the key goals in the recently published Strategic Energy Framework.”
The Minister continued: “In the New Year, the Offshore Renewable Energy Forum will hold its first meeting. This Forum will allow key stakeholders, operating in the marine environment, to advise DETI on the ongoing development of NI’s offshore renewable energy.
“I am confident that the opportunities for offshore renewable energy are there and we are working to secure them. The next few years will see an increasing level of activity to develop the offshore renewable sector in Northern Ireland. The successful realisation of this work will contribute to the sustainable and productive use of the sea; provide clean energy; promote jobs and business for local companies.”
The consultation is open until 21 February 2011.