UK targets Ireland’s offshore wind sector in renewables trade push

offshore wind farm

The UK is looking to bring Irish firms on board for joint bids in future renewable energy projects, including offshore wind.

Britain’s trade envoy to Ireland told the Irish Independent that offshore wind was a major opportunity for investors on both sides of the Irish Sea, as both governments have made made ambitious renewable electricity targets.

“It’s all about building alliances,” said Shirley McCay, director of international trade in Ireland at the British embassy in Dublin.

“We want UK and Irish companies to work together and to bid jointly for all the massive contracts that are going to be on offer in Ireland, particularly as a result of offshore wind capacity, and indeed in the UK because the UK too is committed to really growing the offshore sector, particularly floating.”

The UK is one of the world leaders on offshore wind and has recently begun to develop floating farms, which don’t need to be tethered to the sea bed and can therefore harness stronger wind energy further out to sea.

“Ireland is just at the start of that journey whereas in the UK we’re much further on and it’s a big part of our energy input, so we really want to share the UK’s experience with Ireland, and share the companies that are doing well,” Ms McCay said.

The UK charm offensive was launched yesterday at an outdoor event in the British ambassador’s residence in Leopardstown, where 30 Irish companies mingled – in a socially distant way – with UK officials.

“Supporting a green recovery is a top priority for Ireland and the UK,” said British Ambassador to Ireland, Paul Johnston. “As close neighbours and important trading partners, we want to deepen UK and Ireland partnerships and promote opportunities where Irish companies can create solutions to these challenges with UK partners.”

Pat O’Connor, co-founder of VRAI, an Irish company specialising in virtual reality simulations, was at the event, and said expanding into the UK had been invaluable for the firm.

It recently won £1.2m (€1.4m) in UK government funding to help train the UK offshore wind workforce.

Ireland has pledged to boost offshore wind capacity by at least 3.5GW by 2030, and as much as 5GW, to help it meets its target of 70pc renewable electricity.

Eirgrid, which manages the flow of energy around the island, will hold Ireland’s first ever offshore wind auction at the end of the year under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), where companies bid for capacity and are guaranteed a price for their power.

The UK will host a major UN climate change conference, COP26, in Glasgow in November, and is calling on Irish companies to join the global coalition to reach net-zero emissions known as Business Ambition for 1.5C commitment.

Several Irish companies have already joined, including An Post, building products giant Kingspan and clothing retailer Primark (Penney’s).

The embassy will  organise a trade mission to Ireland next spring for green companies from northern England.

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