The Forum has been set up following the publication last year of the Department Of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s (DETI) draft Offshore Renewable Energy Strategic Action Plan. This recommended that DETI should extend the membership of its successful cross departmental Offshore Renewable Energy Project Steering Group (PSG) to include key external stakeholders.
This will allow the group to draw on the wide range of experience and expertise of the key sectors operating within the marine environment and ensure an extended bank of knowledge as the work develops.
Commenting after the first meeting of the Forum, Energy Minister Arlene Foster said: “Members of the Forum can help shape the sustainable development of offshore renewables in Northern Ireland waters to optimise the economic, social and environmental benefits. Their participation and engagement is essential.
The Forum will be looking at how Northern Ireland’s offshore renewable energy resources can be utilised to achieve maximum potential and contribute to the Executive’s 40% renewable electricity target by 2020.
The Minister continued: “The next few years will see an increasing level of activity to develop the offshore renewable sector in Northern Ireland. The Forum has an important role to play in interacting with the key sectors already operating within the marine environment.
“As we move towards the planned Leasing Round in Northern Ireland waters, leading to the future deployment of offshore energy devices, the ongoing engagement and communication with key stakeholders is of growing importance.
“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.”
PSG included representatives from Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department for Regional Development, Department of the Environment, Geological Survey for NI, the NI Environment Agency, The Crown Estate and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
The new members, who will represent key stakeholder sectors, are Alan McCulla of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation; Michael Robinson of Belfast Harbour Commissioners; Ben Diamond of the NI Marine Task Force; David Bell of Invest NI; Kerry Curran of the NI Renewable Industry Group and Cllr Edward Rea of Northern Ireland Local Government Association, representing the NI coastal councils.
On completion of the current Strategic Environmental Assessment work, which has been supported under the European Sustainable Competiveness Programme, 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.