I am delighted to be here this morning. Presumably the clerk circulated a statement from me. I am not going to read it out to the members; they would die of boredom at my droning voice. I will just pick out the highlights. The Marine Renewables Industry Association represents people across the island engaged in offshore renewable energy, including ten wind developers. We have lawyers, researchers, manufacturers and so on as well.
To provide some context, there are two historic moments. The first is 22 July 1929, the day the Ardnacrusha scheme opened in County Clare. It was an extraordinary step forward for the new State and underpinned the economic development of the State in many respects for the following 50 years or so. It was built with a capacity of 86 MW, which would be enough to light up Dundalk and Drogheda on a nice day in today's terms, but which exceeded national demand for electricity at the time. In the early 1930s, we saw the start of the industrialisation policy, which took place during the Great Depression behind tariff barriers, quotas and so forth. Ardnacrusha underpinned that policy and our economic life, such as it was, throughout the 1940s and 1950s. It helped to create a body of managerial expertise and industrial skills that enabled us to go on to the next stage of development in the early 1970s when we joined the EU.
The second historic moment was 23 December last with the passage into law of the Maritime Area Planning Bill. It is a monumental body of work and a great tribute to the legislators, policymakers, lawyers and those in industry who contributed to its creation. Just two years ago, we really had nothing on the Statute Book or in policy in respect of any form of development at sea. We were dealing with the Foreshore Act of 1933. In practice, if one looks back at the Oireachtas debates of the time, it was all about dealing with fishing rights around large estates. In the past two years, Ireland has put together a tapestry of legislation and policy which enables us to develop our offshore renewables, among other things.
Why should we develop our offshore renewable energy? It is an extraordinary resource; we have Europe's most bountiful and available winds and the most bountiful waves in the world also. Wave technology will come on stream in the 2030s. The first reason to develop it is our enormous energy insecurity. We are rated by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, as the fourth most insecure country in Europe.
We have had a very calm couple of years, which has meant the lights have been kept on most of the time. More than half the load has been borne by the coal plant in Moneypoint in County Clare and by gas. That coal comes from Russia and, to be blunt about it, there are not that many alternative sources of coal any more. Currently, the contract is with Russia and Moneypoint continues to be absolutely critical to keeping the lights on. The other big contributor has been gas, with half of our gas being imported, some of it from Russia. By 2030, according to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, 90% of our gas will be imported. We will be in an abject position by then unless we deal with our renewable resource. That is before we even get to issues like EU targets and all the rest of it.
The immediate and most obvious challenge for our industry is to put in place the minimum of 5 GW of offshore energy that is called for by Government policy. To put that in perspective, we have less than 5 GW of wind and everything else, including bits and pieces of solar energy and so on, on land at this time. It is an enormous task and eight years is like two and a half weeks in energy terms. These projects take a long time to plan, get permission, be built and all the rest of it. The big challenge for us and for everyone else is to get that up and running. For the Government, it is a question of getting the new machine in order, including the legislation, all of the policies and the new maritime area regulatory authority, MARA, which is due to open in Wexford in the first quarter of 2023 and will, we hope, be a great new addition to public life. The next call in this area for the Houses of the Oireachtas will be marine protected areas. That legislation is somewhere in the works and will be critically important to finding a way of having a harmonious and constructive relationship between the exploitation of our offshore resources and the preservation of our offshore environment.
As I am conscious of running out of time, I will briefly mention four strategic issues. First, it is vital that our coastal communities are engaged in all of this. There is provision to safeguard their interests under the new Maritime Area Planning Act. There are community benefits that will, for many years, bestow millions of euro per annum on relatively small communities for community projects. Nonetheless, we need to do more to ensure they are involved in, understand and are engaged with planning the offshore future of their communities. There is a model of coastal partnerships in the UK that is working well. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has talked about setting up experimental partnerships here, possibly in Wexford and Donegal. I certainly urge the Oireachtas to support the Department in this and prompt it to do so as quickly as possible.
Second, we now have a vibrant offshore renewable energy policy, which is first-class and on which a lot of work continues to be done in refining and developing it. It is not yet matched, however, on the part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which needs to develop a very high level of determination to build a global supply chain in this area. This will not happen between now and 2030 in the case of the stuff that is primarily going into the water, namely, bottom-fixed wind, principally on the Irish Sea, because that is ubiquitous technology and the home of most of the enormous jobs and income that were created as a consequence of that technology is Denmark, which has some 23,000 people employed in this area. That is done and dusted in many respects. We will, of course, have installation jobs and operations and maintenance jobs but most of our resource in the Celtic Sea and off the west coast will have to be exploited by floating wind and by wave. There are no established players, nationally or internationally, in that field at the present time. As a consequence, there is an enormous opportunity there. The Department needs to get involved and engaged and must drive its renowned agencies, namely, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, in which I had the privilege of serving for many years, to develop a policy to exploit that opportunity.
Third, we need to find a way in, in all our forthcoming provisions for offshore renewable energy, for floating offshore wind. One of the reasons this is necessary is the industrial opportunity it presents in terms of the jobs and incomes that could be created for communities to which it traditionally has been difficult to attract investment, such as Arklow, Wicklow, Wexford and Bantry. I spent much of my life trying to attract investment to those towns and, for reasons that somewhat escaped me, it never really happened. It really could happen now if we get our act together. It must be done not only for industrial purposes but also for the purpose of ensuring our offshore resource is properly exploited. We need to find a way into our various support schemes for floating offshore wind.
Fourth, we need our legislative leaders to be at the forefront in this effort, alongside industry and officials, who are playing a blinder in this whole area and really are doing an extraordinary job in the difficult circumstances the Covid crisis has imposed on us. We need members of this committee involved in explaining and communicating the changes that are going to come offshore for our coastal communities. These changes will include, for example, the issue of port capacity. We do not have the port capacity nor does anywhere else nearby really have that capacity because they have ambitions of their own, including in Wales, the south west of England, the west of France and the north of Spain. We do not have the port capacity to work at scale in this area. We will get by with what we have, plus some investments that are in the pipeline, particularly in Cork, to get to the 5 GW target, but the 30 GW target, which is the Government's aspiration for the 2030s, and the great dreams we have of developing offshore green hydrogen plants and so on can only be realised if we invest in ports.
Finally, I want to give the committee an example of the vision that is now surrounding this industry and which we need to continue on from the work that is being done on the Maritime Area Planning Act and other policy instruments. The Danish coalition Government decided in June last year or the previous year to invest half of the €35 billion required to build a new island 80 miles west of Jutland in the North Sea. It is a true island that will have a harbour, people living there and a huge substation that will help to ensure an efficient distribution of electricity from the wind farms in the middle of the North Sea to surrounding countries. We need that kind of vision and imagination for Ireland for the 2030s. We could not only be self-sufficient in energy from our own offshore resources but we also could export electricity through interconnectors and have many beneficial developments such as islands out in the Atlantic and off the Celtic Sea. The consequences in terms of income and job creation in this very labour-intensive industry are extraordinary. I commend offshore renewable energy to the committee and apologise for talking for so long.