Speech by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D., at the Offshore Renewable Energy Conference, Mount Falcon, Ballina, Co Mayo


Check Against Delivery

Monday, 3 September 2012,

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here in the Mount Falcon today, in this beautiful setting, to welcome you all to Energy Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy Conference.

It is a very fitting location for such a conference; close to the Atlantic seaboard where we have some of the world's best wind and wave resources.

The theme of today's conference is important and timely.

It is a chance to explore how best to develop economic and sustainable opportunities associated with marine renewable energy.

As we meet here this morning we are approaching yet another critical time for the country on our path to economic recovery.

The coming weeks will see Government advance preparations for Budget 2013 and work to secure agreement internationally on aspects of Ireland's bank debt.

Both are essential to bring the national finances back under control as we continue to close the deficit and rebuild confidence to the wider economy.

This is essential for our top priority: to get Ireland working again.

Through the Action Plan on Jobs we are working to implement over 270 measures this year to boost national competitiveness, keeping business costs down, and helping Irish SMEs break into new markets.

The Green economy is a central plank of our economic recovery and this is recognised in the Action Plan.

It supports many enterprises at local and regional level and we wish to build on its capacity to continue to support and create jobs throughout the country.

I believe it is imperative that we harness our strengths to grab the opportunities that our natural resources have granted us.

Over the past year I have met some fantastic innovative small Irish businesses based up and down the Atlantic seaboard who are developing new technologies to better harness renewable energy. From forestry to wave energy, the possibilities are endless.

To provide certainty for the energy sector the Government has published its Strategy for Renewable Energy earlier this year and is finalising an Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan to complement it.

Harnessing our Ocean Wealth
As a Government we have committed to ensure that our ocean wealth will be utilised to the fullest extent possible.

We have long neglected our ocean resource, and underestimated its potential.

Some of you here today may have responded to Minister Coveney's public consultation document Our Ocean Wealth.

I would like to thank all those who contributed their views.

In July the Government published the first integrated marine plan for Ireland, Harnessing our Ocean Wealth.

Its purpose is clear: to put the days of underachievement in the marine area behind us and to ensure that our ocean wealth is a key component of our economic recovery and sustainable growth into the future.

The plan identifies two targets: to double the value of Ireland's ocean wealth to 2.4% of GDP by 2030 and increase the turnover from our ocean economy to exceed €6.4bn by 2020.

It recognises the potential of Ireland's marine resources to contribute to renewable energy generation.

A key action identified for early implementation is the development of an enterprise strategy to generate momentum in specific emerging market opportunities, for example offshore renewable, offshore services, ICT and sensors, and biotechnology.

Also prioritised is the development of an integrated approach to marine and coastal planning and licensing in order to maximise the potential for Ireland's ocean economy.

This will focus on addressing well known deficiencies in the current planning and licensing system and developing an appropriate Maritime Spatial Planning Framework for Ireland.

Renewable Energy Transmission Infrastructure
The potential of our abundant renewable energy resources is nowhere more evident than here in the West.

Because of our proximity to the Atlantic, the West has one of the strongest wind and wave resources in Europe.

A wind turbine on a good site in the West of Ireland can generate on a yearly basis almost twice the amount of electricity it would yield if it were built in Northern Germany.

The collective challenge of Government, Local Authorities and local communities is how best to get clean energy generated in the West to high energy demand locations in other parts of the country.

To acknowledge these challenges we published an Energy Infrastructure Policy Statement to highlight the need to develop and renew our energy infrastructure in order to meet economic, employment and social policy goals.

We need to be able to build the necessary infrastructure to strengthen electricity supplies in the regions and attract more investment here in the West.

And we must ensure 'best practice' planning and coherence between our environmental and renewable energy objectives.

Export Potential of Renewable Energy
We have long known that Ireland has renewable energy resources that are considerably greater than our own needs.

We are moving from today's island-based, stand-alone energy system to a more interconnected and integrated single European energy market.

We now have a real opportunity to go beyond providing for our own needs and to develop our abundant natural resources to become a renewable electricity exporter of scale.

In December last the European Union published an Energy 2050 roadmap which sets out a number of different scenarios for developing a clean energy sector over the coming decades.

It is clear from this that there will be a significant increase required in renewable energy deployment in Europe.

Increased interconnection to the UK offers us the opportunity to access a much larger market in future and the West is well placed to benefit from this opportunity.

As part of the export potential, Ireland has a real opportunity to develop large-scale projects to drive a new renewable export industry.

For our part the Government is fully committed to delivering on this potential, by creating the market framework and conditions for a bilateral and eventually multilateral trade in renewable energy.

In July, Minister Rabbitte had the latest in a series of meetings with UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry.

Both sides agreed to work towards concluding a Memorandum of Understanding by the end of the year which will be the key to ensuring that cross border renewable trade can take place.

Before I leave I just want to convey one last message.

As business and energy innovators this is a very exciting time to be involved in the transformation of our energy industry.

The economy is stabilising and is returning to export led growth again. The State is gradually returning to the bond markets as investor confidence in Ireland continues to grow. Consumer confidence at home, albeit fragile, is becoming more positive.

We are determined to keep this momentum going.

To build on every opportunity.

Just like you are doing here today.

I know you will make an important contribution to further enhancing our recovery.
And I want you to know that this Government will support you through in the solid implementation of our recovery plans.

I wish you the very best for an enjoyable and productive conference.


Government Press Office
Ph: 01 6194098