Engineers Ireland report: Calls for State to double capital spending

Report: Government’s spend target of 2% of GDP not enough

Engineers Ireland describes the new Government’s capital plan’s spending target of 2% of GDP as “inadequate”; saying it needs to be raised to at least 4%.

At the launch of its “State of Ireland 2016” report, the engineering body said the Building on Recovery capital plan needs to deliver material progress in, what it describes as, “mission critical” areas like social housing, broadband, clean energy, schools, roads and flood defences.

Caroline Spillane, director general of Engineers Ireland said: “The Building on Recovery six-year plan provides for a mid-term review, but in truth the new Government should undertake the review now.”

State of Ireland 2016 looks at five key areas on infrastructure — energy, communications, transport, water and waste. It grades the country’s performance for each.

A large percentage of the report is given over to energy, with Engineers Ireland in particular demanding a radical overhaul of the country’s energy efficiency performance which, at savings of 8%-9%, currently stands at less than half of the EU’s mandatory 2020 target of 20%. It gave the country’s current energy efficiency performance a “D” grade.

“While policies are in place to encourage greater energy efficiency, it is clear that accelerated action will be necessary to further this progress, if Ireland is to successfully reach its obligations under the EU Renewable Energy Directive,” it said.

Engineers Ireland also pointed out that the EU requires 16% of the country’s total energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2020 — at present the country is at just 8.6%.

Its incoming president and energy expert, Dermot Byrne, said that transport continues to account for a significant amount of the country’s carbon emissions.

“Engineers Ireland believes the national bus fleet and all vehicles operated by State agencies, including government ministers’ cars, should be converted to electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), and hybrid fuel sources,” he said.

“The roll-out of a network of CNG filling stations would cut our commercial fuel bill and transport gas emissions.”

The country’s communications network is graded “B” by the engineers. It pointed out that, while a recent European report ranked Ireland 8th in the EU for a range of digital integration issues, the rate of growth in the last year had been lower than the average for the rest of the EU.

It said €2bn has been invested in broadband network infrastructure by industry over the past four years and the expectation is that 1.6m homes will have access to high-speed broadband provided by commercial operators “in the near future”, approximately 70% of all premises. It said the remaining 30% of premises not served by broadband represent the target for State intervention.

The transport network is given a “C” grade with the engineers saying limited financial resources during the economic downturn had left national roads badly in need of investment.

“Beyond the motorways, Ireland’s remaining road network is in very variable condition and is not capable of meeting usual demand, certainly not to an international level,” it said.

The engineers call for a light rail network in Cork to be examined.

The report gives Ireland’s waste-water and flood management efforts “D” grades while its water quality and water supplies get “C” grades. It said 156 wastewater treatment plants are “overloaded” and do not meet required standards.

On water supply it found that more than half of the 900 water supplies have one or more deficiency and are below the industry standard and 29,165 customers are under boil-water notices. 47% of treated water is lost through leakage with the average water main now 75 years old.

Finally on waste, the engineering body gave a “C” grade. It found that municipal waste that is not treated in Ireland is currently being exported for recovery abroad which, it said, was a lost economic and resource opportunity, as if that waste was treated at home, it would contribute to meeting renewable energy targets.

“More treatment facilities are required, as outlined in the regional waste plans. However, the policy environment in Ireland has not sufficiently incentivised the market to attract the investment needed.”

Energy — Grade C

The Government has been urged to revise energy policy every three to five years
The Government has been urged to revise energy policy every three to five years

12-month recommendations

  • Develop implementation plan with clear targets and milestones which details actions around the ambitions identified in the Govern-ment’s energy white paper
  • Progress the north–south interconnector to further bolster security of supply and reduce cost to the consumer
  • Accelerate education programmes for communities and individuals on the benefits of energy efficiency and switching to renewable fuels through retrofitting their homes or community-driven district heating systems
  • Ministers encouraged to replace their existing fossil fuel-powered cars with hybrids or electric vehicles and Irish state agency car, van, and bus fleets also progressively converted

Five-year recommendations

  • Review and revise energy policy every three to five years, and inform the process with reports on progress made, gaps to target and new technological developments.
  • Maintain investment in the transmission and distribution networks to meet the needs of a growing economy and the transition from fossil fuels to renewables
  • Encourage renewable energy and harness Ireland’s naturally occurring renewable resources
  • Carry out a deep retrofit of ireland’s domestic dwellings and public buildings to reduce energy demand and increase energy efficiency.
  • Convert the 900,000 homes that are not connected to the gas network, and which use solid fuel or oil for heat, to an appropriate electric heating solution
  • Encourage industrial locations that are off the natural gas network to implement biomass solutions for their thermal (heating/cooling) requirements
  • Accelerate the purchase of electric vehicles by irish consumers

Communications — Grade B

The rollout of 4G mobile networks should continue nationally and research done to develop the network for 5G
The rollout of 4G mobile networks should continue nationally and research done to develop the network for 5G

12-month recommendations

  • Award the National Broadband Plan (NBP) intervention to a contractor(s) and confirm the deployment schedule nationally
  • Continue rollout of 4G mobile networks nationally and protect the integrity of traditional mobile services such as voice
  • Continue to reduce service costs when rates and speeds are not equal in rural/urban areas

Five-year recommendations

  • Rollout of affordable high-speed broadband nationally
  • Broadband infrastructure should be in European top five in terms of availability, uptake and speed. Continue to research and develop the network in anticipation of 5G services.

Transport — Grade C

Continued investment in facilities for pedestrians and cyclists forms part of the 12-month recommendations
Continued investment in facilities for pedestrians and cyclists forms part of the 12-month recommendations

12-month recommendations

  • Progress funding mechanisms for delayed national road projects countrywide
  • Improve road-management systems with increased road maintenance funds
  • Progress development of second runway at Dublin Airport
  • Develop solution for north Dublin and Dublin Airport rail.
  • Continue to invest in improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, in particular in the major cities

Five-year recommendations

  • Accelerate prioritisation of investment in infrastructure projects to increase Ireland’s competitiveness and address the unemployment challenge
  • Progress planning process for port redevelopments in Cork and Galway
  • Agree standards for data formats and communication protocols for integrated traffic systems to enable information sharing
  • Continue to work towards development of an integrated, frequent and reliable network of public transport services in our cities, including integrating fare structures across bus and rail modes

Water supply and wastewater — Grade D.

The preservation of a public water utility is high on the lis
The preservation of a public water utility is high on the lis

12-month recommendations

  • Ensure that Ireland preserves a public water utility as the best way of ensuring that the water industry is brought to the standards required by a modern economy
  • Ensure that adequate funding is available to allow the utility to meet its objectives, including eliminating boil notices and reducing the number of supplies at risk
  • Provide investment in infrastructure capacity to support critical housing needs and employment growth

Five-year recommendations

  • Place an immediate focus on eliminating current boil water notices and ensure that the risk of further notices is addressed by 2021
  • Progress construction of required wastewater infrastructure so as to achieve compliance with the urban waste water treatment directive and eliminate the 45 untreated discharges by 2021

Flood management water quality — Grade C

12-month recommendations

  • Continue to engage with local communities to develop specific measures for each regional area impacted by flooding
  • Complete the flood-risk management plans, setting out the long-term strategy for flood risk management complete the second cycle of river-basin management plans

Five-year recommendations

  • Develop a national future flood forecasting service
  • Implement the measures and actions set out in the flood-risk management plans in a timely manner
  • Provide annual updates on the progress of the implementation of the water framework directive

Waste — Grade C

Over the next five years, the Government has been urged to review the need for contingency landfill capacity.
Over the next five years, the Government has been urged to review the need for contingency landfill capacity.

12-month recommendations

  • Continue the rollout of the organic waste collection system to households and businesses, supporting the national transition to pay-by-weight charging
  • Compile and publish a live register of waste treatment facilities to support the roll-out of future investment
  • Identify weaknesses in the current policy environment, such as ineffective economic instruments, which are not supporting investment in new infrastructure, and communicate the findings to policy makers

Five-year recommendations

  • Ensure that the necessary policy environment and infrastructure is put in place to deliver the prevention and recycling targets as set out in the regional waste management plans
  • Prioritise the development of indigenous waste treatment facilities including anaerobic digestion and biological treatment capacity, soil recovery capacity, mechanical processing capacity, and additional thermal recovery capacity
  • Review the need for contingency landfill capacity as a national backstop to prevent serious waste-related events that threaten the health of citizens and our environment

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