Local authorities are set to identify suitable land areas for renewable energy projects.

This practice is already in place in many counties for wind energy, but is expected to extend to other renewable energy technologies.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communication is currently working on a new renewable electricity spatial policy framework (RESPF).

The RESPF is a plan-led, evidence-based approach to allocating renewable electricity generation targets across the three regional assemblies: the northern and western region, the eastern and midlands region, and the southern region.

The regional targets will then serve as the basis for specific targets for each county. These targets will inform the local authority renewable energy strategies (LARES), which will be given statutory basis and incorporated into county or city development plans.

A central component of LARES is a spatial assessment of land areas suitable for renewable energy development of all kinds.

Acceleration zones

Under the EU’s new RePowerEU plan, Ireland must also map areas across the country which will see renewable energy projects fast-tracked through planning.

The new land designation or ‘renewables go-to areas’ include areas of land, sea or inland waters which are deemed to be particularly suitable for specific renewable energy technologies and have lower risks for the environment.

In their plans, member states will develop and adopt mitigation measures that counter the potential adverse environmental impacts of the projects located in each go-to area.

The go-to area would then be subject to a simplified environmental impact assessment, instead of an assessment being carried out for each project, as is usually the case.

The renewables go-to areas would also limit the grounds for a legal objection to new projects by presuming they are of overriding public interest.