Taskforce report reveals opportunity for ‘Atlantic Green Digital Corridor’ anchored from Shannon Estuary but running from Donegal to Cork and becoming global green digital hub.
The Shannon Estuary can become the “green digital powerhouse for the country” and its future economic development and benefit Europe in the process
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated this view as he launched the Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce report at the weekend.
“I see this as an Ireland project and an all-of-Ireland project. We have a single electricity market north and south, and we’re keen to approach this opportunity, this green energy revolution, as something that will involve the whole country, north and south”
The 200-page report is the output from an estimated 5,000 hours of commitment by the voluntary Taskforce appointed by Government 15 months ago to make recommendations on the economic development potential of the Shannon Estuary region.
Green front door to Europe
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Simon Coveney, Barry O’Sullivan, Chair, Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce, Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister for the Environment, Climate & Communications, and Transport Eamon Ryan at the historic Ardnacrusha hydro-electric dam to publish the Shannon Taskforce Report. Image: Brian Arthur
Based on the unique natural assets of almost unrivalled deep-water, proximity to one of the world’s largest offshore wind resources with an estimated 70GW generation capacity – ten times our current national requirement – and available development landbanks for offshore wind supply-chain, green fuels generation and large scale FDI and indigenous industries, the estuary can, the Taskforce found, become the staging post for the ‘Atlantic Green Digital Corridor’.
This, its chair Barry O’Sullivan stated, would be the world’s leading green powered digital hub, stretching from Donegal through to Cork and further inland and delivering unprecedented benefit to the State by way of not alone sustainably powering the nation but being the 21st century draw for FDI and indigenous business growth.
A key recommendation to government in the report to enable this is the creation of a National Floating Offshore Wind Development Agency, a one- stop-shop – as recommended in the EU Green Deal – to ensure that the plan becomes a reality.
The Taskforce also recommends that the region, described by O’Sullivan as “the green front door to Europe”, be given EU renewable energy ‘go-to area’ status.
The report targets, in terms of green jobs alone, the creation of 10,000 jobs by 2035 and 50,000 by 2050, having 2GW of green energy capacity in development by 2030, and up to 30GW installed by 2050. The investment value of the entire viable wind resource off the Atlantic seaboard is estimated at up to €120bn.
The report was launched on Saturday at the Ardnacrusha Generating facility, which almost a century ago on its launch delivered a global renewable energy revolution as it became the world’s most cutting edge hydroelectric station, transforming a fledgling state as it electrified Ireland for the first time and, in tandem, saw the roll-out of the world’s first national grid.
Commenting on the report, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “It is a really visionary piece of work in my view. And what we want to do here in the Shannon Estuary region is to make this the green digital powerhouse for the country.
“If you speak to the history of this place, Ardnacrusha, built here 100 years ago, we went from being a country with an undeveloped electricity network to being the first with a national grid. It’s (the Shannon Estuary Region) is also the home of Shannon Airport, a lot of heavy industry, port infrastructure and, of course, the city of Limerick with its universities. So, a lot happening in the region already, from North Kerry through to Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary.”
Varadkar said the region can become one of the powerhouses for “Ireland’s future economic development, harnessing the enormous renewable energy that we have here and building new industries, producing green fertiliser, producing sustainable synthetic aviation fuels, powering the nation and also creating power for exports”.
It is something, he continued, that will take decades to deliver but “we get it started right away.
“That’s why I was very keen to be here personally to launch the report, but also to be here ministerial colleagues, to show that is very much going to be a whole of government approach to realising the potential of this region for the benefit of the whole country and indeed for Europe as a whole.
“I see this as an Ireland project and an all-of-Ireland project. We have a single electricity market north and south, and we’re keen to approach this opportunity, this green energy revolution, as something that will involve the whole country, north and south.”
Addressing the attendance, including national, local political and business stakeholders, Taskforce chair Barry O’Sullivan appealed to all to play their part in realising this “opportunity of the century for region and State.
He said: “We see this region as the green front door of Europe, leading to an Atlantic Green Digital Corridor where we can take the infinite green energy from the Atlantic and convert that into a new economy and a new society for Ireland. The scale in terms of time is infinite because the wind will be around forever. And we’ve enough power out there for about 70m people. We’ll want to export some of that and play our part in the decarbonisation of Europe. But also we want to attract new industries here and develop our own industries to take that power, create value-add and take the economy to a new level.
“Our ask of all of you now today, in this noble place of Irish history, is to lead Ireland into Shannon Scheme 2.0. Support us, and the people of this Estuary will lead the harvest of our Atlantic wind for the benefit of all of our citizens, in every parish of our land. If not, history will not being kind to any of us. Our time has come.”
Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD, said that the Estuary has the capacity to rebalance the national economy and be an answer to climate change.
Ryan said: “This is bringing power to the people, but it’s also bringing industry to where the power is. The big story here is a move-west, northwest, southwest, rebalancing our country. There’s so much development in the east that’s good for everyone but if it’s all in the East the country is imbalanced. Using this power in the west to bring jobs to create energy but also to balance our country, real strong growth right along the west coast, north west, south west, I think that’s the big story here. It’s a balancing of the country, the economic development heading west, I think that’s a good news story for everyone.”
He continued: “If 100-plus years ago we could build this dam to power the country, spending a quarter of our total wealth and income, yes, we can achieve that today. We’re inspired by what was done in the past and we repeat it today at scale. We’re good at renewable power. There’s a revolution taking place in the world and we happen to have some of the best resources, wind and solar. And yes, we will develop this for sure.
“This will be the warmest week in history. This is a wake-up call. We have to act now and act fast. Switching to renewables is one of the things that gives us hope. So today is the answer to the to the fear. We have ways ahead.”
Taskforce Board member and CEO of Shannon Airport Group Mary Considine added: “This is transformational not only for this region, but for the country and for Europe. I think what’s really important now is action. I think you’ve see today the show of strength not only from our senior political leaders, but from leaders right across the region and right across all the industries and the faculties. And it’s about now getting on, making sure that the policy and the infrastructure and the connectivity in place is to really this dream.”