Ireland’s energy infrastructure challenges – report

27 Feb 2012

John Power, director-general, Engineers Ireland, pictured with Ireland's Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, today. The Minister said today that Ireland needs more engineers

Engineers Ireland has today brought out its analysis of Ireland’s energy infrastructure. According to the body, Ireland’s energy infrastructure in Ireland has served the country well up to now, but it is now facing significant challenges, including security of supply, competitiveness and meeting carbon emission targets.

The publication of the report The State of Ireland 2012 – a review of infrastructure in Ireland today, also marked the start of Engineers Week, which is running until next Sunday.

At today’s briefing the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, also said that Ireland needs more engineers.

“Ireland needs to engineer its way to the knowledge-based society that we all agree is our future. We need more engineers. We need them now, and we need them in future. We need schools to make maths and physics interesting and we need young people to choose engineering as a career,” he said.

Energy, transport, water, waste and communications

As for the report, it analysed five key areas of Ireland’s infrastructure: energy, transport, water, waste and communications, using a grading system. Engineers Ireland allocated energy infrastructure a B grade. The B- allocated to communications was an improvement its 2011 appraisal of this sector, according to the report, and was a reflection on the advances made in broadband speeds. The other three areas – transport, water, waste – each got a C grade.

Engineers Ireland said today that Ireland is struggling to meet peak demand in the infrastructural areas of transport, water and waste, which it says all require significant investment and better maintenance.

The assessment from Engineers Ireland also pointed to Ireland’s regional communications infrastructure. It said this infrastructure is improving but it said that overall countrywide deficiencies in this area still “hamper producer and consumer needs”.

Speaking at the launch, John Power, director-general of Engineers Ireland, said the report was the second in a series to promote improvement in the country’s international competitiveness through productive infrastructure.  

Capital investment

“The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has stated the core focus of capital investment is the upkeep of existing infrastructure, rather than investment in new projects. Engineers Ireland acknowledges the reality of the need to reduce public expenditure. Nonetheless, capital investment is vital to meet the Government’s desire to stimulate the economy and meet its stated job creation objectives outlined in the Action Plan for Jobs,” said Power.

He also said that “vital skills are being lost to the Irish economy” and the Irish construction industry as a result of the absence of major infrastructural projects.

“This report is intended as our contribution to the debate on building the future of Ireland. It recognises the challenges facing the country and sets out fundamental steps which should be taken to meet those challenges,” he said.
The report also gave a vision for Ireland’s energy infrastructure, looking at the competitive, sustainable supply of energy to meet the needs of Irish society and its economy. As for Ireland’s natural energy resources it also looked at the potential of exporting such renewables.


As for Ireland’s transport system, Engineers Ireland pointed to how it is a mixed bag at the minute. It said “top-quality signature projects” sit alongside much “poorer infrastructure”.


Looking to water, the report said investment over the last decade had helped to improve water quality, which had been deteriorating. However, it said challenges remain in flood protection and in mitigating the effects of climate change.  

Waste sector and energy 

Engineers Ireland welcomed the moves Ireland’s waste energy sector has been making, especially around waste management, using waste to generate energy and recycling.

It said that waste industry is “proactively” moving towards an integrated approach to waste management and to a position where waste is considered a resource that can generate energy and employment while retaining an ongoing commitment to recycling.

However, the body said that recycling ambitions and the need to meet EU objectives must be taken into account.  

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic