Green tech could spark third industrial revolution

20 Oct 2008

Ireland’s potential to become a Silicon Valley of green technology is an opportunity that cannot be ignored, and could spell 18,000 jobs for the country, venture capitalists have been told.

“The European Commission says that the creation of a low-carbon economy will spark off the third industrial revolution,” Dr Eddie O’Connor, chief executive of Mainstream Renewable Power, told the Maples-sponsored annual dinner of the Irish Venture Capital Association in Dublin recently.

“Ireland should accept the logic of that message and be a leader in the green tech revolution.”

O’Connor said that because of Ireland’s size, it could not be a leader in everything. “But we should not be afraid to pick winners, especially in areas where we have a comparative advantage, such as wind, especially off-shore wind, ocean energy and certain forms of biomass.”

He said that the opportunity for Ireland was huge. “If Ireland was to install 6000MW of wind energy on land and sea, some €15bn to €20bn would be spent. This would go a long way to making us energy independent and it would also create some 18,000 jobs.

“We would forego the emission of 10.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, thereby avoiding fines of €324m per annum. We would forego importing six million tonnes of coal equivalent every year at a cost of €671m. We would substitute a fuel that is free for a polluting fuel that is expensive and running out.”

He said that if Ireland does not grasp the opportunity to become a world leader in a few chosen technologies then “we will be left behind and reduced to being followers in them all. We have already wasted too much time before getting started, and if we don’t galvanise our efforts over the next year, it will be too late for us to catch up.”

Referring to the dangers of failing to act now, O’Connor pointed out the estimates of the International Energy Agency in Paris that global energy usage will double by 2050. At the same time, scientific evidence suggests that carbon emissions need to be reduced by 80pc by 2050.

“The only way we humans can square this circle is by carrying out the greatest technological revolution in history: by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy; by re-organising the way we live, work and play; by changing the way we think, act and organise society.

“We need to develop new technologies in harnessing the wind, the sun, the ocean and even heat from the earth itself,” O’Connor said.

By John Kennedy

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