IDA worry over lack of renewable power spend

The IDA has expressed concern over Ireland’s underdeveloped renewable energy infrastructure; saying it is becoming an issue when attempting to win additional foreign direct investment (FDI).

Speaking at a sustainable energy conference hosted by the embassies of four Nordic nations — Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark — in Dublin, IDA senior vice president Barry O’Dowd said the agency is increasingly being “confronted” with questions about Ireland’s ability to generate sustainable and renewable energy from companies interested in investing here.

Mr O’Dowd added that while Brexit is “playing to our favour” in FDI terms, at the moment, a lack of investment in renewable energy generating projects — like wind and solar energy farms — could be a concern, when it comes to FDI attraction, “down the road”.

When asked if the IDA has a policy to ensure the use of renewable energy by multinationals — when operating vast energy consuming facilities such as data centres — Mr O’Dowd said the agency would have “no direct involvement” and it would be a matter for the energy regulator.

However, this issue — according to another speaker at the event, the Department of the Environment’s Michael Manley — is moot in that most multinationals operating such facilities actively want renewable energy generation.

Mr Manley — who is assistant secretary at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment — also sought to downplay the prospect of Ireland missing its 2020 renewable energy and carbon emission reduction targets; one of only a few EU member states set to do so. Ireland is on course to miss targets of reducing carbon emissions by 20% and to have 40% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020, with its 2030 targets also viewed as being under threat.

Mr Manley, however, said that by 2020 Ireland should be over 90% on the way to its targets and that the glass is “well more than half full” on the subject. His comments came a day after a climate change expert warned that Ireland could be in line for fines of over €450m for failing to meet its 2020 targets.

The estimate, from Dr Paul Deane of UCC’s Environmental Research Institute, came on the back of Environmental Protection Agency data showing that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.5% last year. The EPA said that Ireland has not managed to decouple emissions from economic growth.

“New innovative solutions are needed from governments, cities, communities, businesses and citizens. Citizen engagement is important because recent studies have shown that the consumption decisions of households affect around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions,” Sari Siitonen, director of Finland’s development climate leadership council told yesterday’s conference.

“Profitable, sustainable business is the most efficient way to respond to global environmental challenges,” she added.

“Renewable energy will become the cheapest way to produce electricity in the future. Investments in new wind farms deserve to be considered publicly. Clear regulation and transparent processes lead to better and less contentious decisions,” Per Sanderud, director of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate said.

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