Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Answer my Friend is Blowing in the Wind

On Thursday, 6th October, I was pleased to be in Killarney to speak as President at the Irish Wind Energy Association autumn conference which was opened by Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government Phil Hogan TD.

The title of my paper was 'Renewable Energy Opportunities for the Engineering Profession'. I detailed the challenge we all face to meet national and EU energy targets but these present tremendous opportunities also in both onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal power.

PJ Rudden speaking as President of Engineers Ireland
at the IWEA autumn conference

Minister Hogan was keen to assure his audience that current regulatory obstacles impacting on offshore energy infrastructure will be removed with a new Marine Planning Bill. He was also reassuring on Government commitment to REFIT (Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff) 2 as otherwise there can be no Round 3 renewable developments whether licensed or not.

In my own address I referenced our State of Ireland Infrastructure Report of May 2011 which very much supports Government and EU targets on renewables.

I stated in unequivocal language that not only does Engineers Ireland support our current national renewable targets but that we differ with the tiny  minority of engineers who for their own reasons don't support these targets.

Frankly those who wish to rely on fossil fuels for longer than is needed lack a long term vision of what's happening in the world today particularly with regard to the accepted reality of climate change. This is the type of blinkered thinking by some engineers to whom I referred in my Presidential Address as unlikely to influence or inspire any recovery in the Irish Economy.

The Engineers Ireland policy priorities three themes - security of supply, decarbonisation and competitiveness. Of course ongoing policy review must have regard to current demand projections but we must now plan a 'fit for purpose' energy infrastructure for the longer term having regard to the medium to long term gestation period for most of the larger energy projects.

We need a fully diversified energy mix as future security. While fossil fuels will always be part of that mix it will be a slowly decreasing part. Our future policies need to respond to that reality. Our Government and most other Governments in the developed world do so as do most global professional organisations who wish to lead their members forward.

I also referred to the tremendous opportunities that the full development of our offshore renewable resources can provide in term of multibillion export if we align the regulatory regimes in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland at least and also England and Wales as the UK will have an energy deficit in some 10 years from now. We as engineers need to seize that export opportunity as part of our economic recovery drive.

I look forward to the Irish Scottish Energy Links Study (ISLES Study) Conclusions and Recommendations being announced by the three Ministers for Energy in Glasgow on November 23rd next. This is deemed to be the seminal study which will dictate the development of Offshore Renewables (Wind, Wave and Tidal) off our coastline for the next 30 or 40 years.

These are difficult challenges requiring a balanced technical environmental and social assessment. They require a vision and firm leadership which Engineers Ireland will continue to give. We will continue to support successive ambitious Government thinking with which we are firmly aligned.

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