Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conferences and what next

The end of a busy week in the renewables conference scence, NOW Ireland on Monday, Eirgrid on Tuesday, ESRI on Thursday my head is fried with the possibility of it all. What we learned folk is that the people whotwelve months ago could not spell the word export have finally woken up to the fact that we can make money from this. What they have not figured out yet is how to inject the sense of urgency to make it happen.

The other thing which has changed is that no one in the policy or utility areas seems to believe that Ireland will be an independent energy market for much longer. There will be at least a regional market encompassing Ireland and the UK and more likely an EU market. This is one of the few and probably the only significant area of commercial activity where there still exist barriers to trade between nations. This is gonna change.

Strong recommendation to read the coverage of Ian Marchant's remarks from the NOW conference in today's Sunday Times.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Got a nice tweet from the boys in Eurotech in Castleblayney, reminding me that the EcoBuild show is on in the RDS in early November.

Eurotech are exhibiting, there is the plug for the boys and they have a few products entered in the show awards. Free tickets can be got from the link below.

The show will provide information on new efficient building and design techniques. According to the PR issued there will also be seminars and workshops to attend.

Should be worth popping along to

Monday, October 12, 2009

NOW Ireland Conference Opening Remarks

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured to welcome you to the second National Offshore Wind Association of Ireland Conference. This event is taking place just short of our second anniversary.

At our launch in 2007 we spoke of the potential that was offered by offshore wind. We have not just talked about potential, we have quantified it. Our members are committed to investing in excess of 6 billion Euro in developing over 2000 MW of offshore wind energy in Irish waters. We believe that there is potential for at least another 3000 MW of offshore wind energy. In the not too distant future as technology develops to allow deeper water installation, the western seaboard offers massive scope for future development.

An Indecon Cost Benefit Analysis published at our conference in 2008, identified an economic benefit to Ireland of up to 3.8bn euro from developing a 1000 MW project in Irish waters. The benefit of this comes in terms of employment opportunities, reduced import of fossil fuels, reduced exposure to oil and gas price fluctuation, avoidance of carbon fines and a long term reduction in energy prices.

Where are we now

In the two years since our launch much has changed in the economy but there has been little change in our sector. The potential still exists, indeed in the context of this changed economy, the potential is even greater.

Ireland’s most abundant renewable energy resource is the wind off our coasts. Already on land we have made impressive strides, building in excess of 1000 MW of onshore wind generation capacity. Ireland now ranks fourth in the world in terms of electricity generated from wind energy. But the prize offshore is a multiple of this. Ireland has 10 times the ocean area than it has land area. Our waters offer higher and more consistent wind speeds, leading to much more efficient electricity generation load factors.

Ireland was a world leader, we developed one of the world’s first offshore wind farms in 2001 and were the first to use turbines over 3MW. Since that achievement the Industry in Ireland has been stopped in its tracks. The UK needs energy imports, The EU will need clean secure energy. Ireland has an unparalleled ability to be able to provide that energy from offshore wind. In the near future Ireland must be part of a European energy system, interconnected and with a pricing mechanism allowing us to export offshore power around the EU.

Despite the strides which have been made onshore, without offshore wind and the scale it offers, Ireland will not meet its renewable energy targets. Ireland will not achieve energy security. Most importantly, without harnessing the power of offshore wind, we will waste one of our greatest national resources and the export opportunity it brings.


Offshore also offers a wider benefit in the context of building a Green economy. The EWEA has estimated a jobs benefit of 14 jobs per MW of wind energy installed. This is based on building a sector which will attract the upstream and downstream jobs needed to support the development of projects not only in Ireland but also in the UK and further afield. Already Harland and Wolf in Belfast is showing what can be done, playing a leading role in providing engineering solutions on the Robin Rigg project. I am aware that some major European companies are considering Ireland as a supply base for the offshore wind industry. Ireland needs to capture jobs in this market. It requires the political will to go after sectoral companies in the same way as we targeted Intel and Microsoft.

People in Europe have woken up to the potential of this industry. (Siemens – 450,000 employees committing one-third of its resources to the €300 billion forecasted European investment in offshore in the next 20 years. Bremerehaven – A massive boost to Increased employment including investment, boost to economy). This success came because the German government decided to back its policy commitments with action.


NOW Ireland has for some time identified and communicated the three barriers which exist to achieving our goals. Broadly speaking they are Grid, Consenting or Planning and the Pricing system in which we will operate.

NOW Ireland believes in a partnership approach to addressing these issues, with Government and Industry working together. This is a new sector. Many of the delays which have stunted the potential of this industry have occurred in areas where legislation or procedure relates to different industries or to different times. At present five Government Departments have an interest in the area of Offshore Wind, 15 statutory agencies have a consultative role in developing projects. It’s no wonder things are not moving forward.

Of the five offshore projects currently being developed in Ireland, two have consenting and no grid connection and three have grid connection but no consenting. None of the projects are in a position to proceed to the next phase, until they achieve both elements.

It’s time to find a better approach with more joined up thinking.

The consenting system for offshore wind is unlike any other planning process and it does little to inspire confidence among those who would consider going through it. At present one can apply for and receive planning permission for a gas power plant in a small rural village in one quarter of the time that it takes to obtain permission for an offshore wind farm. A planning system without timescales and definition will by its nature be inefficient and the current system is one of the primary barriers to the development of this industry.

This country is not recognising what offshore wind can achieve. Ireland can be a substantial energy exporter, reversing the current dependency on imports. We need to build a grid aimed at supporting thise deployment of large scale renewable projects. We must shift our minds from the way we have always done things to what the future requires. We are going to invest in a new grid for Ireland. This is going to happen . What we must avoid is designing one which meets the needs of the Ireland of the past. We require a grid which allows us to exploit our resources to their full potential .

The third barrier is the pricing system in Ireland. The Departments recent announcement of a REFIT scheme is welcome and it represents a starting point, but it is not competitive in European terms. Industry leaders like Germany and the UK have developed superior systems to ours. If we want to see companies invest in Irish waters surely we need to ensure that our terms rank with the best in Europe. The IDA offer competitive terms to potential investors, our tax regime is based on offering investors an attractive package – why then when dealing with the development of the Irish renewables sector are we offering terms which are not competitive with those of our European neighbours.


Today we welcome the Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan, and the EU Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, along with our other distinguished guests. The Ministers support for renewable energy is clear and the Commissioner has stated, repeatedly, that he believes Ireland has an opportunity, indeed a responsibility, through export to play a role in contributing to Europe’s long term energy security. Both men clearly believe in Ireland’s potential. But belief is like potential, it is nothing without action. We now need action to get this industry moving, an Industry which has investors ready to put up €6 billion developing over 2000MW, immediately creating thousands of jobs, surely a kickstart to an economy which badly needs it.

Minister, can I ask you some questions? We need to know what the Governments plans are for offshore. What are the targets for this specific sector? How is the Government addressing the issues in relation to Consenting, Grid Connection and Pricing? Finally, how do we get from the muddle we are in to the joined up thinking which characterises other countries approach to developing this great resource of offshore wind?

The next twelve months is critical for this industry, and we need the Government to respond. Our goal for 2020 should not be to reach limited targets, but to achieve our greater potential.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Green Economy Provisions in Prog for Govt Mk 2

The Green Economy
A key pillar of economic policy will be to implement a Green New Deal to move away from fossil-fuel based energy production through investment in renewable energy and increased energy efficiency to reduce demand, wastage and costs.
We will put in place new public procurement procedures and guidelines to ensure that green criteria are at the centre of all state procurement.
We will revise our Capital Investment Programme to take into account new budget realities and the need to deliver a Smart Economy and to meet our mandatory climate change emissions reduction targets.
We will prioritise research and technologies that offer strong development opportunities in the area of water management, leaks, measurement, metres etc.
We will extend our system of Accelerated Capital Allowances to develop the Green Economy into areas such as renewables, waste disposal and water usage.
We will work with the ESB and international motor companies to see a deployment of some 6,000 electric vehicles over the next three years.
We will implement the GRID 25 electricity grid plan to ensure we deliver on our ambitious renewable energy targets.
We will present a plan for a high voltage off-shore electricity grid as part of the wider European electricity ‘Supergrid’ so that in the future we can become an energy-exporting nation.
We will select a “Smart Town” test site of at least 1,000 homes for energy companies to test new smart grid and other energy efficient applications.
We will transfer foreshore licensing to the Department of the Environment and integrate it with the planning system to assist the development of our ocean energy resources.
We will introduce new energy demand reduction targets for energy utilities, thus allowing the customer to “save as they pay” through energy efficient measures.
We will facilitate the establishment of energy research and technology centres by international institutions in Ireland.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Design for Life - Comhar New Green Deal

As an exercise in PR it generated a lot of publicity, but I'm not sure whether the launch of the inclusion of the 'turn Anglo into a Green Bank' was the wisest thing for the Comhar report to include. The media focussed extensively on the proposal which was only a small part of an otherwise highly interesting report.

Comhar lead off by making an important point, which in my words, not theirs, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of Green policy without much action as to how to turn it into action.

Comhar define the New Green Deal as follows

. Revive the Irish economy and create job opportunities through building an innovative, low carbon and resource efficient society.
· Protect ecosystems and biodiversity while reducing fossil fuel dependency.
· Provide for greater social inclusion through stimulating new green jobs, reducing fuel poverty
and delivering better access to transport.
· Build ecological resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change.

This goes a little further than the normal Green Energy discussion and touches on all aspects of our economy and our society.

Priority areas for investment are identified as

The priority areas for investment should
· Improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock
· Renewable Energy
· Transforming the National Grid
· Delivering Sustainable Mobility
· Public Sector Investments
· Skills and Training
· Green Infrastructure

There is nothing mind blowing here, much of it has been written down before, but it is well argued and well worth reading. I wouldn't claim to agree with all of the recommendations, but the creation of a national decarbonisation fund is a clever one, as is the idea of promoting green banking, although not in the guise of Anglo and definitely not in state ownership.

It's not a short report (at 64 pages), but then considered reports frequently are not and it is very easily read.

Another valuable contribution to the debate as to how we use the current economic fun and games as a means of redesigning our lives

Marine Bonanza

SEI has announced grants of 26 million euro for 10 Irish marine and tidal companies to help them develop the technology to make this a viable energy form. SEI has clearly nailed its colours to the mast in relation to supporting this as a development industry.

The support for marine is vital and is very welcome. It is only questionable that this seems to be the only sector that is receiving significant R & D funding. It seems to be accepting that Ireland has lost the race to develop R& D capabilities in Wind energy. Ireland is rapidly gearing up in this area and we can be a real player not only in energy supply but also in service and technological development.

Our goal of building the world's leading tidal and marine companies should be supported in any way possible, but it should be one pillar of a renewables policy which seeks to make Ireland the green centre of Europe.

Ireland ranks fourth in Electricity from Wind

The International Energy Agency is now ranking Ireland 4th in terms of electricity generated from Wind Energy. This is another milestone for renewables in Ireland and in particular for those who have championed the onshore sector.

We are now only behind Denmark, Portugal and Spain, countries who would be regarded to be tech leaders in this field. Given our resources see below, we should be moving far ahead of these countries, particularly if we seriously develop our offshore potential.