From Stormont to Scotland: Pioneering Partnerships in Offshore Wind

Exploring political strides and industry opportunities in Northern Ireland's energy sector, focusing on its renewable energy journey and the promising future of offshore wind.

February 11, 2024

Kicking off my first blog of 2024, I want to dive into two areas that I have a particular interest in – Northern Ireland, and Renewable Energy. As someone who was born and raised in Northern Ireland (NI), I've been following with great interest the political developments regarding the Stormont Assembly convening and the end of the political deadlock in NI. For anyone who would like to read a bit about this, here is a link to an in-depth article. Now, I am fully aware of the delicate balancing act which takes place in Northern Ireland, it’s undoubtedly a complex place. In this blog, I'll share my opinions on advancing the low carbon & renewables industry, rooted in the belief that we need to take on the massive opportunity.

My pursuit of growth and opportunities both in my homeland and here in Scotland has always driven me. After all, this passion for progress fuelled my decision all the way back in 2008 to establish the headquarters of WeConnect Energy in Scotland’s cultural capital city of Edinburgh. My team and I attended the Scottish Renewables Wind Conference a few weeks ago in Glasgow, and it was great to be surrounded by such an enthusiastic community of experts. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with vendors and hearing from the keynotes such as Jesper Bank, speaking about renewable energy success stories further afield – the future of offshore wind is filled with confidence. The positivity and innovation I have seen, when combined with the promising news in Northern Ireland, got me thinking.

Stormont parliament building
Stormont Parliament Building, Belfast

The re-establishment of a functioning government in Northern Ireland marks a pivotal moment for progress in the region. This development is particularly exciting for those of us interested in renewable energy, as it opens the door for all political parties in Northern Ireland to work together towards a common goal. With the government back in operation, there's renewed hope that we can fully leverage Northern Ireland's rich natural resources for renewable energy projects. This collaborative effort across the political spectrum is essential for maximising the potential of our natural resources and making significant strides in our journey towards a sustainable future.

This growing emphasis can be clearly seen in how Northern Ireland has been making strides in offshore wind energy, and the countries’ plans to establish offshore wind leasing in its marine area. The Department for the Economy (DfE) and The Crown Estate have expressed their commitment to creating conditions favourable for offshore wind leasing, aiming to deliver 1GW of offshore wind from 2030, which underscores Northern Ireland's ambitious energy infrastructure plans. This initiative is expected to power one million homes, marking a significant step towards self-sufficiency in affordable renewable energy​​.  

In 2023, Northern Ireland hit a financial sweet spot by harnessing the power of the wind, saving an impressive £243 million. This didn't just cut costs, the country also cut carbon emissions by an amount equal to what 200,000 homes would produce. Interestingly, renewable sources provide almost half (47.4%) of the NI electricity consumption, with wind accounting for an impressive 83% of that supply. But it's not all smooth sailing; experts are calling for some urgent action to iron out planning and grid hitches, a common snag seen in many markets, to keep the country on course for 2030 renewable energy goals.  

In addition to the North, the Republic of Ireland is also advancing its offshore renewable energy capabilities. The Irish government, led by Minister Eamon Ryan, has outlined significant measures to accelerate the rollout of offshore renewable energy. The first auction for offshore wind capacity on the south coast of Ireland is aligned with available onshore grid capacity, indicating a strategic and sustainable approach to development. The Offshore Renewable Energy Designated Areas, guided by the Maritime Area Planning Act, aim to provide certainty for maritime users and investors, further supporting the development of Ireland's offshore wind capacity. These efforts are part of Ireland's broader strategy to maximise offshore wind energy capacity, reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels, and move towards zero CO2 emissions, thus creating jobs and ensuring cleaner energy​​.

There has been previous exploration into energy collaboration between Scotland and Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of ocean energy as mentioned in the report by the Marine Renewables Industry Association, though whilst relating to renewable energy, it focuses on marine energy rather than offshore wind.

On the other hand, lessons from ScotWind, Scotland's offshore wind leasing round, highlight the importance of ambition and strategic planning in offshore wind development. Ireland, looking to Scotland's example, recognises the need for real ambition in developing its next phase of offshore wind, suggesting that a collaborative approach could indeed amplify the opportunities for both regions. The success of ScotWind offers valuable insights into how strategic planning, governmental support, and stakeholder engagement can drive the offshore wind sector forward​​.

The collaboration between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, potentially influenced by the new leadership in Northern Ireland, could enhance the offshore wind opportunities between Ireland and Scotland. Given the shared maritime boundaries and the strategic importance of the North Channel and the Irish Sea for wind energy, the political will and collaborative efforts can significantly impact the scale and speed of offshore wind development in the region. The shared maritime spaces between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland present a unique opportunity for a tripartite partnership that could set a precedent in renewable energy collaboration.

The UK's offshore wind success, as seen in the ScotWind leasing round, is attributed to a comprehensive regulatory framework and competitive leasing processes. The Crown Estate's data-driven site selection and environmental screenings, coupled with the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme, have significantly reduced costs and attracted investment. These elements could serve as a model for collaboration between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Scotland, emphasising the need for strategic planning, government support, and stakeholder engagement to advance offshore wind development in these regions. For those who are interested, I found a very engaging and detailed analysis by Russell McVeagh with further references within.  

For stakeholders interested in the future of renewable energy, this narrative underscores the importance of looking beyond local and national boundaries towards a more integrated and cooperative regional strategy. In my humble opinion, next steps could involve establishing formal frameworks for collaboration, sharing best practices and lessons learned, and jointly exploring innovative solutions to common challenges in offshore wind development.

I fully appreciate that this level of cross-nation collaboration is easier said than done, but by doing so, not only can these regions collectively enhance their renewable energy capacities but also contribute significantly to the broader goals of energy security, economic development, and climate change mitigation. This vision for a collaborative future in offshore wind energy sounds promising, but it's going to be a real challenge to make it happen. It's about getting people in power and the industry to really listen and take action, but I believe that the restored stability within Stormont has reignited the opportunities to do just that.

On a lighter note, and to conclude on the topic of offshore wind, this year started with a bang for us here and I am proud that we have successfully launched our new Low Carbon and Renewables division at the start of 2024, hiring seasoned expert Dan Brooks and his passionate team to spearhead our footprint in these expanding sectors.  

man smiling in a plus shaped frame

Our company mission is simple, we want to connect the world’s energy experts. If you're looking for support with your offshore wind or general energy projects, WeConnect Energy is here to help. Feel free to send me an email at or connect with me on LinkedIn. If you like what you’ve just read, do keep an eye out for future publications which I plan to launch in the coming quarters.  

No items found.