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Speech by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin T.D. at Renewable Energy Conference

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Dia Dhaoibh a chairde,

Tá lúcháir orm a bheith anseo inniu i nGaillimh chun labhairt ag an gcomhdháil seo.

The Port of Galway has a long history of serving the City and the region.

But as a TD for a maritime city I know that ports cannot rely on the past to guarantee a vibrant future for themselves.

Ports must constantly keep an eye to the horizon, assessing what the future might hold for their current business models and looking at possibilities and opportunities to reinvigorate and reinvent.

At Galway Port you are now looking to your future and assessing the options that lie before you.

I want to commend you for this. I understand that relocation is one option that is being considered which might allow for the development of increased capacity in a new location, freeing up the current harbour to be re-imagined.

There is no doubt that the removal of commercial shipping and its associated activities from the existing “gated” harbour would provide considerable scope the city to re-purpose the existing port, adding further to the vibrancy of this wonderful city.

But there are, of course, several challenges to such a venture and these must be weighed up and considered in the round. I have no doubt that Galway Port is fully aware of all the issues and giving the various options the required examination.

The area of climate change, and our response to it, is of course one of the areas where Galway Port’s future might lie.

I would like to thank Maurice, Conor and all at the Port of Galway for organising today’s conference and, in particular, for the opportunity to address you on the opportunities for renewable energy in the years ahead.

Encouraging and enabling dialogue between renewable energy stakeholders about present and future activities is a really important exercise and I have no doubt that today’s speakers were able to provide further clarity on the vast potential and opportunities for renewable energy in the region.

Climate Change & Renewable Energy

The report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change earlier this month warned that average annual global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history in 2010-2019, and that the window of opportunity to avoid climate catastrophe is closing quickly.

Simply put, despite all the other challenges we are facing - and there are many - climate change is the most profound and far-reaching threat of our time.

Globally we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gases emissions this decade, to have any hope of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, keep our ecosystems functioning, and ensure that our planet is safe and liveable for generations to come.

It is heartening to see so many people, representing so many organisations, here today looking to embrace climate action and renewable energy.

We know now, that our energy future must be renewable. As I speak to you today, our scientific understanding of the impact of greenhouse gas emissions has crystallised and the evidence of this change is all around us.

We are seeing weather extremes locally and globally, rising sea levels and the destabilisation of climatic cycles that have sustained our civilisations for millennia. Climate change is a threat to all of us and to our way of life.

If this wasn’t enough of a reason to transition to a low-carbon emitted sources of energy, Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine and the collective European response to it also demonstrates the critical need to make urgent progress on the transition away from fossil fuels and our dependence on them.

The climate imperative is that we act now and change how we live, how we travel, how we produce food and how we generate and use energy.

In 2020, electricity generation accounted for 15% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Renewable electricity can not only help deliver our necessary emissions reduction targets, but also provide new jobs, new opportunities and a more resilient, secure and sustainable energy system for future generations.

Importantly, it will enable regional development that the West of Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of, helping us to deliver on our goal of a more balanced national economy.

As a country, Ireland has made significant progress towards the deployment of renewable electricity.

In 2020, renewable energy generation accounted for 43% of all electricity consumed in Ireland – meeting the target set under the 2020 EU Energy and Climate Framework of generating 40% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Crucially, up to three quarters of the electricity flowing on the electricity grid at any point in time can now come from variable renewable sources following the completion of a ground-breaking project by grid operator EirGrid.

But we can, we must and we will do much more.

As an island nation, Ireland has unique opportunities. Given our location at the Atlantic edge of the EU and with a sea area seven times that of our landmass,

Ireland has very promising green hydrogen and offshore renewable energy potential.

I have no doubt that the Port of Galway could play an important role as a renewable energy hub and in achieving our renewable electricity targets.


There is a saying in Irish, “tús maith, leath na hoibre” which means that a good start halves the work to be done. With renewables, Ireland has had a good start and while there have been many successes to date, there is still so much more to be done.

It is essential that we in Government have the right policies in place to take climate action and accelerate development of renewable energy infrastructure.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 sets a roadmap for taking decisive action to halve our emissions by 2030 and reach net zero no later than 2050, a key commitment in our Programme for Government.

Among the most critical measures in the plan is the requirement to increase the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030.

An electricity grid driven by renewable energy sources will contribute significantly to Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is Ireland’s flagship policy to deliver on our renewables target and set a pathway to a net zero economy. The first auction under the scheme was held in 2020 with 63 projects currently progressing through delivery milestones.

The second auction process has begun with the qualification application window having just closed in January and the auction is scheduled to take place in May.

The Climate Action Plan identified green hydrogen as having the potential to support decarbonisation across several sectors and, in particular, in high-temperature heat for industry and in electricity generation.

Ireland is now beginning to draw up a detailed strategy focussing on the development of green hydrogen to be included in Climate Action Plan 2023.

In the meantime, I’m pleased that I’m able to actually announce Ireland’s first ‘Hydrogen Valley’ here in Galway where the new Galway Hydrogen Hub, or ‘GH2 consortium’ is proposing to develop the research, production, distribution and utilisation of indigenous renewable hydrogen gas.

It is proposed that the gas will eventually be used in transport, industry and within local communities in the greater Galway region.

Seven key stakeholders have come together to create this consortium – the Port of Galway, NUI Galway, CIÉ, SSE Renewables, Aran Island Ferries, Lasta Mara Teo and Aer Arran Islands.

Full details of the project will be announced in the coming weeks, but I wanted to take the time, while I was physically here in Galway, to commend everyone involved for the ambition, creativity and forward thinking that you’re displaying in this project.

I wish you well in your work on it.

Now looking offshore, our considerable ambitions are supported by legislation in the form of the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 and the National Marine Planning Framework.

These will help provide for long term forward planning for Ireland’s maritime area and will enhance the effective management of marine activities and more sustainable use of our marine resources.

The Act also establishes a new agency to regulate development in the Maritime Area, which is to be called the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority.

Work on the establishment of this authority is being led by my colleague Minister Darragh O’Brien and will be in place by Quarter 1, 2023.

In the meantime, the Maritime Area Consent regime has commenced and enables the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan on an interim basis, to issue Maritime Area Consents to renewable energy developers who meet the relevant assessment criteria.


While the primary function of ports is of course to facilitate maritime transport, it is recognised that there is a pressing need for Ireland to have the port capacity in place to exploit the opportunities presented by offshore renewable energy.

Government published an Offshore Renewable Energy Ports Policy Statement in December 2021 setting out the strategy for commercial ports to facilitate offshore renewable energy activity in the seas around Ireland.

A number of ports will be required to provide facilities for the different activities at several locations around the country and at different times for the various phases of the fixed and floating offshore developments.

These developments will typically require both large-scale port infrastructure for project deployment and small-scale port facilities to provide ongoing operation and maintenance services.

This represents, potentially, a major opportunity. It has the potential to maximise the economic benefits at both regional and national levels in terms of job creation and new SME enterprises in areas such as engineering, fabrication, transport and logistics, and other technologies.

In this Policy Statement, we as a Government are making it clear to the offshore industry that we are committed to the provision of port facilities in Ireland for Offshore Renewable Energy developments.

A number of ports and private entities are already progressing plans to provide the facilities and infrastructure required to assist the sector to develop in Ireland and I hope that there will be opportunities for the Port of Galway to pursue.

A number of ports on the Trans European Network for Transport (TEN-T) are eligible to apply for EU Connecting Europe Facility grant funding.

As you know, Galway Port is not on the TEN-T network as it does not meet the eligibility criteria under the current Regulation.

However, Government is supportive of Galway’s application for inclusion, and I know that Minister of State Naughton has raised this directly with the European Commission.

I understand that the Department of Transport is continuing to engage with the Commission on behalf of Galway Port.


As Ireland, Europe and the world attempt to reduce emissions and move away from fossil fuels, clean renewable energy is vital.

I do not underestimate the challenge of the task ahead, but there is a role for all of us, working together to exploit the many opportunities to address climate change, secure our energy supply while delivering economic growth and supporting balanced regional development.

Gabhaim buíochas libh arís as an deis seo labhairt libh anseo inniu. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh sult as an gcuid eile den lá.