Date Released: 29 November 2012
The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, has announced his plans for a Green Fund to kick-start investment into energy efficient projects in both public and commercial sectors of the economy.
“While the details are still being worked out, the idea is that we would put in place a mechanism to allow competitive proposals for energy-efficient projects to be financed,” the Minister told a conference on Sustainable Energy and Jobs organised by SIPTU and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
The conference in Croke Park on Thursday 1st November, brought together union and management representatives from the semi-state energy companies including the ESB, Bord Gáis, Bord Na Móna and Coillte and from private companies such as Glen Dimplex, Kingspan and Glanbia.
Addressing the 200 participants, Pat Rabbitte said that it was hoped to launch the Green Fund with 20 pilot projects in 2013 with the objective ofcreating “the environment and structures that will allow us to attract investors to create a far bigger fund, one that will be big enough to realisethe multi-billion euro worth of economic activity that we know is outthere.”
“I believe that the Green Fund canbe established in such a manner thatit does not just attract private equityinvestment but can also leveragefunds from, for example, the PensionsFunds industry.”
In a provocative contribution, Glen Dimplex chief executive, Sean O’Driscoll, called for a visionary energy-efficient future creating significant economic value and solving thefuel poverty crisis.“The single biggest transfer of our national wealth each year is the €6 billion fossil fuel bill. 36% of all primary energy consumed in Ireland is to provide space and water heating to buildings – a significant portion of which is wasted.
“Ireland needs a bold and visionary National Energy Efficient Policy” he said. O’Driscoll claimed that such a policy would create tens of thousands of jobs across the economy in upgrading the existing building stock and take hundreds of thousands of homes out of fuel poverty. He said that the efficient energy system of the future will merge different technologies into one coherent intelligent energy system enabling such possibilities as on-site generation and consumption in schools, hospitals and other large workplaces.
“The technologies to deliver significant energy efficiencies and balance fluctuating electricity production(wind, solar etc.) with consumption, exist today,” he added.
Barry O’Flynn, the Director of Corporate Finance, Energy and Environment at Ernst & Young pointed outthat with the depletion of fossil fuels,the only means of securing long-termenergy supplies was through alternative and renewable technologies. He argued that coal reserves could last 112 years, gas 63 years and oil 54 years at current production rates with demand outstripping supply, despite the discovery of new reserves. Shale gas was, he said, a localised benefit with limited transportation infrastructure and noted that the interest in nuclear generation was waning.
“There is an increasing gap appearing between fossil-supply and global demand while the only alternatives to coal are increased renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he added.
ESB deputy chief executive, John Shine, claimed that the energy landscape was being transformed and that investment and technology innovation were both vital to the future.
“Ireland has unique opportunities with the right scale, resources, companies, industry models, R&D collaboration and the necessary experience and innovators,” Shine argued.
However he said that “policy certaintyand clarity are critical.” In a detailed presentation of Ireland’spotential, Gabriel D’Arcy, chief executive officer at Bord Na Móna, outlined viable alternative energy generation, including wind and wave resources and biomass production.
Bord Gáis CEO John Mullins outlined the real opportunity of exporting renewables direct to the UK while recognising also that planning support for key infrastructure was needed. He said that Irish Water – for which Bord Gáis has responsibility –would reduce energy usage through through a cut in leakage while also making a significant contribution to creating new jobs.
In response, SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, said it was important that the jobs created by the new water company would be of adecent standard and that workers would enjoy the terms and conditions of those already providing this vital national service which must remain in public ownership.
Other speakers included the business development director of Kingspan, Gary Treanor, the Sustainability Manager at Glanbia, Audrey O’Shea, Element Power Chief Executive Tim Cowhig and the CEO of SOSVentures and Avego, Sean O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan explained how the profile and vision of his firm’s car-pooling company, Avego, which is basedon friendly iPhone application technology was boosted by the recent Hurricane Sandy when cars withfewer than three passengers were prevented from entering Manhattan in New York during the storm. He also outlined his proposal to allow automatic Irish work visas to graduates of any of the world’s top 250 technological universities, or those selected and sponsored by leading technology companies as ameans to resolve the skills shortage in the IT sector.