As the Deputy knows, last December , I announced the publication of a Policy Statement setting out a strategy for commercial ports to facilitate offshore renewable energy (ORE) activity in the seas around Ireland, confirming this Government's commitment to the provision of port facilities for ORE development.
The strategy sets out a multiport approach as Ireland will potentially need to build, on a phased basis, 4 to 5 standard ORE port facilities (each capable of building 500 MW of ORE annually) that will act as construction and deployment ports over the next 25 – 30 years. In addition, a number of smaller ports will be required for ORE Operation and Maintenance activities. A number of ports and private entities are already progressing plans to provide the facilities and infrastructure required to support the construction and maintenance of offshore wind farms and to assist the ORE sector to develop in Ireland.
While Irish Ports receive no exchequer funding, as part of endeavours to maximise EU funding, following extensive engagement with other Member States and the Commission, the Department successfully obtained changes to the Ten-T CEF criteria to allow EU funding of port infrastructure for ORE in the 2021-2023 funding stream. On its own, CEF funding does not have any State aid implications and successful applicants can obtain significant grant funding of up to 50% of eligible costs for studies and up 30% of infrastructure works costs.
A call opened in 2021 for applications and closed last January for funding for transport infrastructure projects. Bearing in mind the confidential nature of the process, individual applications cannot be commented on. However, four ports/private entities that are eligible under TEN-T applied for funding for studies which will effectively allow them to prepare for lodgement of planning applications in 2022 and 2023 onwards for ORE port developments.
Unfortunately, none of these applications were successful in the first call. These are competitive processes, and typically oversubscribed and we are engaging with the Commission to understand the decisions. The companies involved continue progressing their plans and are also engaging with the Commission before preparing applications for the next call due to open in September this year. The Department will continue to assist, as appropriate, eligible applicants with the application process.
The Department also continues to encourage engagement between the ports and developers so they are best placed to exploit the opportunities that will arise from the development of the ORE industry. From DoT engagements, it is known that ports and private entities are engaging in their own commercial discussions with ORE project developers to underpin the business case for the port infrastructure developments. Progression of projects and timelines remains subject to results of ORESS auctions, substantive engagement from ORE developers directly with ports, establishment and resourcing of MARA, MAC consents for ports and planning consents for the necessary port infrastructure.