Ireland’s solar revolution9th October 2023
Unlocking Ireland’s solar potential9th October 2023
On 17 July 2023, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) was formally launched, following an announcement by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD, on 17 May 2023.
The new agency will have responsibility for assessing applications for maritime area consents (MACs) which will be required before developers of offshore wind and other projects in the maritime area can make a planning application. It will also be responsible for granting licences for what the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage describes as “certain activities” in the maritime area.
The Department states that the establishment of MARA “marks the transition to the new maritime consenting regime and will be a key enabler in respect of Ireland’s ambitions for the offshore renewable energy sector”. MARA will be based in Wexford in line with the Government’s regionalisation policies under the National Planning Framework.
The agency has been established under the auspices of the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 (MAP Act), which establishes a new marine planning system, underpinned by a statutory Marine Planning Policy Statement (currently in development), guided by the National Marine Planning Framework, and consisting of a new licensing and development management regime from the high water mark to the outer limit of the State’s continental shelf, administered by An Bord Pleanála, the coastal local authorities, and the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA).
Implementing offshore wind infrastructure
The establishment of MARA will, the Government hopes, be an enabler of the expansion of offshore wind infrastructure. Under Climate Action Plan 2023, the Government is committed to expanding Ireland’s offshore wind capacity to 7GW by 2030, which includes 2GW earmarked for the production of green hydrogen.
Production of green hydrogen involves the splitting of water molecules, a process which requires heat and therefore requires a renewable source of energy to ensure that CO2 is not emitted into the atmosphere during the process.
The agency is chaired by Laura Brien, who has over 25 years’ experience in regulation and policy, particularly in the energy sector where she has worked for the CRU as a director. Brien is also a member of the Bureau of the OECD Network of Economic Regulators.
Minister O’Brien additionally announced Mark Mellett, the former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, as the Chair of MARA.
The agency was established shortly after the results of the State’s first offshore wind auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1). The auction secured a price for offshore wind production of an average of €86.05/MWh. Over 3GW of capacity will be procured from four projects, enough to power approximately 2.5 million Irish homes with clean electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over one million tonnes in 2030.
Minister O’Brien says: “MARA will be responsible for regulating development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area and comes about as part of the biggest reform of marine governance in Ireland in almost a century.
“MARA will have in place the process and procedures relating to maritime area consent applications for offshore renewable energy and for marine infrastructure that supports the delivery and deployment of offshore wind projects, such as port development work.”