Clean tech sector in Ireland could generate 80,000 jobs by 2020

7 May 2012

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Pictured: Kenneth Matthews, Chief Executive, Irish Wind Energy Association , Barry O'Flynn, Head of Cleantech and Sustainability Ernst & Young Ireland and Stephen Nolan, Executive Co-ordinator Green IFSC

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At least 20,000 and as many as 80,000 new jobs and a boost of €3.9bn to Ireland’s GDP by 2020 are possible if Ireland focuses on clean tech. This would require a national clean tech framework.

At present Ireland’s import of fossil fuels stands at €5.6bn, according to Ernst & Young. And the grimace on the face of most motorists as they drive away from a petrol station across Ireland today speaks volumes as they are forced to pay higher and higher fuel costs.

But there is an opportunity to instead become an exporter of fossil fuels when you consider opportunities for renewable energy. After all, Ireland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe.

Globally the clean tech sector is estimated to be a US$5 trillion market and according to Ernst & Young if Ireland takes advantage of its natural advantages in this area as many as 80,000 direct and indirect jobs could be created in areas like renewable energy and retrofitting and construction.

“The clean tech sector can transform Ireland’s economy in two fundamental ways. Firstly, the sector can drive economic recovery through job creation and growth,” Barry O’Flynn, Head of clean tech and Sustainability at Ernst & Young Ireland explained.

“Secondly, it places future economic growth on a sustainable path by breaking our dependence on importing fossil fuels which currently stands at €5.6 billion, by significantly reducing domestic national energy consumption and generating more indigenous renewable energy,” O’Flynn added.

The Ernst & Young report warns, however, against policy inaction and points out Ireland’s international competitiveness will be eroded if volatile, high energy prices prevail.

The negative impact on GDP is estimated to range from €9.8bn to €12.3bn. Fiscal suicide in these recessionary times!

Correct clean tech actions

The report urges that energy efficiency and renewable energy measures be implemented at scale.

Denmark and Germany already have in place 30-year national policy frameworks for certainty in investing in renewable production.

In Demark the industry employs 24,000 people, accounts for 8.5% of total Danish exports and generates approximately DKK51.1 billion or €6.91 billion.

In Germany, studies show that the renewable energy sector employed approximately 370,000 people in 2010 and this could rise to over half a million by 2030.

“Globally renewables are seen as a key strategic sector to be developed to help economies recover from austerity,” Kenneth Matthews, chief executive, Irish Wind Energy Association.

“From an Irish perspective it has always been clear that we have abundant resources both naturally and in term of talent to develop the renewables sector not only to meet our own EU binding renewables targets but also to assist other EU countries in meeting theirs.

“If the correct actions are taken to create regulatory certainty, deliver infrastructure, create public acceptance and the political will exists Ireland can become the renewable energy hub for Europe, transforming our economy via cheaper, cleaner and more secure electricity, creating much needed jobs in energy and energy enterprise through the transition,” Matthews added.

Efforts such as Ireland’s Green IFSC seem to be a step in the right direction and last week it emerged that the Green IFSC could eventually manage US$200bn worth of green funds.

“The Green IFSC is an excellent initiative to accelerate growth in green finance in Ireland and it already reaping benefits in terms of increased assets and jobs,” Ernst & Young’s O’Flynn said.

“Now the Green IFSC has been given a mandate it can really co-ordinate and pull together the many positive public and private sector initiatives in this area.

“An implementation plan is well underway and Green IFSC close collaboration with the private sector and the investment community will strengthen further. This sort of certainty and co-ordination in policy-making will drive investment into the sector, attracting external investors and creating exciting businesses,” O’Flynn concluded.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com