Between now and 2020, new contracts that are being signed for wind-energy grid connections could be on track to bring some €4.7bn worth of new investments into the Irish economy, which is being dubbed, ‘the new, clean economy’ in certain clean-tech circles. The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) has just revealed the news at the start of its annual conference in Galway.
As well as this, 60pc of the IWEA’s member companies intend to take on new hires in 2014.
The conference, titled ‘Building a Sustainable Energy Future’, is taking place in the Galway Bay Hotel, with Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, giving the keynote.
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com in advance of today’s conference, Rabbitte yesterday confirmed he would be aiming to dispel any "myths" that have been circulating around Ireland in relation to wind-turbine technology, especially with regards to the midlands region, and energy exporting.
He hinted there would be big announcements coming out today.
The IWEA has also carried out a new study, the results of which it is presenting at the event.
At the end of September, 119 new wind-energy projects signed contracts to accept grid connection offers as part of the ‘Gate 3’ process.
Deposits totalling €27m have been paid by applicants of the projects, which will have a total generation capacity of 2,746 megawatts (MW).
The increased capacity, the IWEA said, will more than double the amount of electricity generated by wind in Ireland.
It will allow Ireland to meet its 2020 energy targets in the EU in terms of having 40pc of all electricity being generated by renewables by 2020. This, the organisation said, would help avoid "significant financial penalties amounting to at least €350m per year".
Growth in wind-energy sector
Kenneth Matthews, CEO of IWEA, said the estimates are that 2014 and 2015 will see a "significant growth" in the wind-energy sector.
He confirmed that investment over the next seven years by this next tranche of wind-energy projects will total almost €4.7bn.
"The economic benefits of this growth will be reaped at a national level, through taxation and the avoidance of significant financial penalties, and at local levels throughout the country by way of direct and indirect employment and through ongoing commercial rates."
It is critical, Matthews said, that Ireland keeps up the momentum.
This would create the required regulatory certainty that will ensure delivery of these projects between now and 2020.
"As an industry we must bring all communities and stakeholders on this journey if we are to collectively reap the benefits," Matthews said.
In his address to the conference, Rabbitte will also be drawing on figures from a new IWEA member study and how it reflects the wind-energy industry as directly employing thousands of people across the country right now.
"Wind energy not only helps Ireland overcome its energy challenges but provides new opportunities for growth and value creation.
"Currently, there are 3,400 people directly employed in the sector and I’m encouraged by the findings of IWEA’s new member study."
He said 60pc of the IWEA’s member companies intend to hire more people in 2014.
"Over the next few years, as we move towards meeting our 2020 targets, the number of people employed in the industry will grow substantially," Rabbitte said.
"Community acceptance and support will be essential in realising our vision for wind in Ireland and local communities must be at the heart of the energy transition.
"Local communities must be engaged and consulted through effective and timely communication from the start of projects right through to commissioning and operation."
The IWEA conference will home in on what it is terming as Ireland’s opportunity to put its energy future on a more sustainable footing.
The goal is to put the country on the global map as an exemplar in wind energy, as well as continuing the investment in the sector on the island of Ireland in the coming years.
Other speakers at today’s event include Mark Foley, who heads up Coillte Enterprise; Katalin Quittner, director of lending for western Europe at the European Investment Bank; and Rosheen McGuickian, CEO of NTR.