Government plans greening of Ireland

Targets for greater energy efficiency in construction and renewable energy growth unveiled at Energy Forum, writes Jason Walsh

The government today announced its plans to invest in sustainability across Irish society and industry, from construction to transport and agriculture.

An taoiseach, five ministers and two ministers of state addressed business and the public sector at the Energy Forum conference at Shelbourne hotel in Dublin.

Minister for the environment, John Gormley, noted that major changes were already underway in the construction sector, particularly in terms of energy efficiency.

“Last December, I introduced building regulations for new dwellings to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in related CO2 emissions from 1 July next. These new measures were the start of a whole new dynamic which I intend to bring to bear on the energy efficiency of our buildings over time,” he said.

Mr. Gormley told the conference that building regulations will be updated again in 2010 with a view to a 60 per cent improvement over the 2005 standards for new dwellings.

The minister also said that he will invite local authorities to build on the experience of the House of Tomorrow scheme and that he will work with Eamon Ryan, minister for energy, to help roll-out the building energy rating (BER) scheme for all buildings and develop strategies for the retrofitting of existing buildings.

“I intend to reinforce a strong energy efficiency component in on-going programmes of refurbishment and upgrading works to local authority and social housing,” he said.

The conference also saw the announcement of a €200 million investment in energy-related research and development in order to create jobs, reduce Ireland’s dependency on imported fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

An taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that Ireland’s future was one that made use of cleaner, greener energy: “We are uniquely placed to secure our economic future by marking ourselves out as a centre of the global green energy boom. This is the decision we have taken as a Government.

“We want to take a direct, interactive approach to inform future Government actions so that Ireland becomes a leading low carbon economy.

“Our incentive to tackle the climate change challenge is all the greater because the actions we need to take will also protect our economy from future oil and gas supply shocks.

"We are using 165,000 barrels of oil each day, which is some ten pints of oil for every man, woman and child each and every day of  the year. We have to prepare now for a future when conventional oil  supplies start to contract rather than continue to expand.”

Eamon Ryan said the government expects to yield an economic benefit €3.6 billion and carbon savings of 6,300 million tonnes by 2020 based on energy demand reductions while minister for agriculture, Mary Couglan, announced plans to promote the growing of crops for biofuels including second generation technologies that convert lignocellulosic material including wood and straw to biofuels.

Minister for transport, Noel Dempsey, said that biofuel would play an increasing role in public transport and that public transport itself was required for a sustainable travel and transport system in Ireland.

The conference comes at a time when Irish renewable energy company, Wavebob, has signed an agreement with Sweden’s Vattenfall, one of Europe's biggest electricity companies, washing investment into wave power.

Last modified on Thursday, 06 March 2008 23:55