Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, is in Cork today to launch a new initiative called Energy Cork that will aim to develop an industry-driven energy cluster in the Cork region to boost job creation in the local energy sector in areas such as clean tech, energy supply and construction.
Announcing details of the Energy Cork initiative, Rabbitte said it would seek to exploit the energy industry presence in the Cork region from both companies, public and private, and from energy-related research.
He said Energy Cork has come about as a result of two years’ collaboration from a steering group that involved industry and higher education stakeholders, with support from Cork City Council and Cork Council.
"The vision of Energy Cork is to develop an industry-driven energy cluster in the Cork region, which will co-ordinate action to boost enterprise, jobs and growth in the local energy sector," said Rabbitte.
He said the cluster has set a strategy to work under the areas of energy supply, demand side management, building standards and construction, transport and clean tech.
Over the next two years, Rabbitte said Energy Cork will work to broaden its membership base via initiatives such as networking forums and information exchange and training workshops.
World Energy Outlook and energy efficiency
Rabbitte also pointed to the recent findings of the 2012 World Energy Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which pointed to the economic potential of energy efficiency. Last week, the IEA’s chief economist Dr Fatih Birol was in Dublin to launch the document.
"Crucially, the Outlook points out that the considerable gains promised by energy efficiency are within our reach and will be essential to support a more secure and sustainable energy system.
"I am convinced that we in Ireland are well placed to take advantage of these trends by reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels and by exploiting our renewable and efficiency resources," said Rabbitte.
He also made reference to this week’s Budget, in which the Irish Government announced it was providing €35m in seed capital for a new Energy Efficiency Fund that will aim to set up a leveraged fund that attracts matching private-sector contributions. This fund has been set up to help the country meet its 2020 target to achieve 20pc energy savings by retrofitting existing buildings.
"It will come as no surprise to anyone that the exchequer cannot continue to fund the scale of retrofit that is required to meet our 2020 target. I hope this new fund will kick-start investment of the type and scale we will need," said Rabbitte today.
He said the Government is finalising proposals for the financing of up to 20 energy-efficiency projects next year. Rabbitte said this week’s Budget also allocated at least €7m in funding for energy research projects in 2013.
Referring to the Energy Cork cluster, he said its future work could serve as a model for other regions to develop similar strategies.
"As we move towards more integrated European-wide electricity and gas markets, it gives us a real opportunity to develop significant new markets for our renewable resources," said Rabbitte.