Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland promises €6bn in savings

11 Mar 2010

Along with a name change from Sustainable Energy Ireland to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) the state body has revealed an ambitious five-year plan that promises €6bn in savings as well as the creation of between 5,000 and 10,000 jobs every year.

The five year plan, said Prof Owen Lewis, SEAI chief executive, is something that “touches everyone so everyone must be part of this”.

With this in mind the plan not only outlines targets for sustainable transport such as electric cars and the creation of a smart grid for electricity supply but also tangible current objectives for home owners with a focus on retro-fitting for energy efficient buildings in order to reach a position of 20pc energy savings by 2020.

60,000 homes to become energy efficient in 2010

This year Lewis says the SEAI hopes to see 60,000 households meeting green compliance. However, over the next decade one million buildings need to be upgraded and this will cost €6bn, with €16bn in lifetime savings.

There will be an emphasis on affordability and 25,000 of the projected 60,000 homes will be financially aided by both SEAI and the local authorities.

Asked if the objective can be met, Lewis said that, aside from the 600 to 800 queries the SEAI receives on a weekly basis, there were something in the region of 1,000 phone calls per day in January due to the severe weather conditions.

While there are already 2,500 qualified contractors ready to both retro-fit and build green homes, the one bottleneck in the SEAI’s five-year strategy for Ireland is the skills shortage, said Brendan Halligan, chairperson for the organisation.

He went on to explain that the reasons behind changing both the organisation’s name and logo were very important: “We had reached a point where we have to systemise what we were doing.”

An authority on sustainable energy

SEAI’s new strategy will involve networking closely with its 50 stakeholders as well as serving as a central authority through which others in the public sector will pass, giving Ireland’s green strategy one single focal point when it comes to advice, direction and information.

“We have established our authority based on several past initiatives including a focus on electric vehicles, the promotion of micro-generation, a leadership role in ocean energy and our retro-fitting initiatives,” said Halligan.

With some targets, such as 80pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, 12pc renewable heat for the nation by 2020 and 10pc electric fleet by the same year, these goals are “credible and realisable”, maintains Halligan.

Economic stimulus is at the heart of sustainable energy

Speaking at the launch of the five-year strategic plan Energy Minister Eamon Ryan said that there will be a firm focus on economic stimulus as part of this: “We will not be able to contract our way out of this.”

He said that the smart economy dogma of new business propositions and being both effective and competitive held true for the green economy and that we needed to heed the advice of TK Whitaker and exploit our natural resources.

Discussing the area of energy efficiencies he said that this will involve going into “every school hospital and garda station” throughout the country to educate on energy-saving principles and practices.

On the area of developing renewables, Minister Ryan said that we already derive 15pc of our electricity from this while taking the No 2 spot for wind integration in Europe. This is something that we lead the way in and we will eventually get to 40pc, he explained.

Green apps are the future

Finally, Ryan talked about Ireland’s indigenous ICT sector and how this will play a pivotal role in our drive towards sustainable energy, with 600 Irish technology companies as well as headquarters of multinationals here.

We need to investigate “how to turn the internet into zero-carbon technology” he said, going on to explain that similar to how the iPhone arrived and was followed by mobile apps, smart metering can go in the same direction.

We have to allows for smart metering web apps to develop here, which we can then deploy and export to other countries: “The real opportunity is using Ireland as a test bed for green technology and even more important is the human interface so that we can get it right.”

By Marie Boran

Pictured – Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan TD unveiling SEAI’s Strategic Plan

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