Chicago is the epicentre of activity for Irish renewable energy entrepreneurs

14 Mar 2013

The city of Chicago

‘The Windy City’, Chicago, has become a base for investment for some of Ireland’s leading renewable energy entrepreneurs, the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, TD, has been told during her visit to the United States.

“For the past 12 years, a number of the leading Irish renewable companies have been using Chicago as a base for investing into the US green sector,” said Mike Hayes, chairman of the Green International Financial Services Centre (GIFSC). “Notable examples include Airtricity, which built up a US renewable business based in Chicago from nothing until it was sold for US$1bn to E.ON in 2007.

Burton met with some of Ireland’s most successful companies in Chicago who are working with GIFSC to help increase business back home and create jobs.

Ireland’s GIFSC is a public/private initiative tasked with the positioning and promotion of Ireland as the world’s leading centre of excellence for green finance as part of Government strategy for growing Ireland’s green economy. It works closely with the international financial services centre, the renewable enterprise sector and policy-makers to ensure Ireland has the most attractive business environment to allow green finance to flourish.

Green asset management

GIFSC is to visit Chicago this June to help attract business to Ireland and create jobs. It has targeted the green asset management space as a core focus in a bid to grow assets from today’s US$20bn to US$200bn by 2017.

“The Irish Government has targeted the green economy as a major opportunity for growth, competitiveness and employment creation for Ireland and these are some of the companies leading the way,” Burton told the entrepreneurs during her whistle-stop tour of Chicago.

Hayes summed up the sheer activity among Irish renewable energy executives in Chicago: “Other Irish companies have continued to use Chicago as a base to invest in the sector, including Mainstream Renewable Power, Gaelectric Holdings Plc and NTR Plc.

“One key consequence has been the growth in expertise in the sector for Irish companies which has resulted in significant job opportunities in Ireland, the US and elsewhere as this expertise is an exportable service to the global market. It has also helped to foster a culture of encouraging other Irish corporates taking similar investment decisions in the US and elsewhere in this sector. In many ways, this is similar to the way in which Ireland has become the leading location for aircraft leasing globally.”

He explained that the enterprise sector, combined with Ireland’s US$3trn funds industry was crucial to GIFSC achieving the goal of dramatically increasing green assets under management in Ireland.

“It is these entrepreneurs who understand the industry and the underlying technologies and are being increasingly utilised by traditional asset managers to make the investment decisions globally,” said Hayes.

For example, financial powerhouse BlackRock has set up its renewable power investment group in Ireland following the formation of a strategic relationship agreement comprising of a number of key renewable power principals from NTR joining the BlackRock Alternative Investors platform.

Chicago image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years