Ireland has officially launched its Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), alongside a plan to open an area for renewables development off the republic’s southern coast.
Announced in May and formally launched at an event in Rosslare Europort on Thursday, the newly established authority will open on 17 July to oversee development and activity in Ireland’s maritime area.
Its role includes assessing applications for Maritime Area Consents (MACs) – a prerequisite for developers of offshore wind and other projects before they can make planning applications – granting licences for certain activities in the maritime area, as well as investigations and prosecutions.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien said: “With the launch of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority here in Rosslare today, we now begin the second phase of our all-of-Government approach to the development of offshore renewable energy.
“Delivery of offshore renewable energy will be crucial as we strive towards our climate goals over the next few years and MARA will provide the regulation and clarity that this emerging industry needs and govern our extensive maritime resource and contribute to our nation’s sustainable future.”
It comes as the government’s looks to establish at least 5GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, in support of a wider target to source 80% of electricity demand from renewables by the same date.
Newly appointed MARA CEO, Laura Brien, said: “MARA’s remit is wide-ranging reflecting the diverse marine resource that we will steward for this generation and the ones to come. MARA is confident in our ability to support the governance of our maritime resources.
“In achieving this, we look forward to working with the wide range of stakeholders in the seafood, tourism, transportation as well as offshore renewable energy sectors to deliver on our role.”
Putting wind on DMAP
At the same time, renewable energy minister Eamon Ryan also hailed the launch of the country’s first designated maritime area plan (DMAP) proposal covering offshore renewables
The proposals mark the country’s first “systemic, plan-led development” for offshore wind, with the first such map covering an area off the south coast.
This area will be refined through a process of public engagement and consultation, environmental impact assessments and other analysis of the maritime areas, to assess its suitability for offshore renewable energy development, the government said.
A further consultation was also launched covering the design of future offshore wind auctions under the country’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS).
Mr Ryan added: “Today marks the start of our new plan-led approach to the development of our off-shore wind industry, which was supported by both Houses of the Oireachtas. It also aligns us with the strategic direction being taken by the world’s leading off-shore wind countries like Denmark and Scotland.
“The rigorous legislative approach included within the South Coast DMAP Proposal will offer the best approach to protect local marine environments, fishing communities and boost local community development. It will offer comprehensive opportunities for public engagement, including the engagement of local communities.”