The energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors offer a potential ‘green goldmine’ for Irish firms thanks to big energy targets Ireland must meet by 2020.
The number of Irish homes and businesses to be upgraded for energy efficiency needs to treble if Ireland is to meet its energy efficiency and renewable energy targets by 2020, says the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
Oisin Coghlan, Friends of the Earth director, says there will be a cost to the taxpayer – in the form of substantial fines – if Ireland’s green commitment is not met.
“[Businesses] may not be focused on climate action right now, but they won’t thank our politicians if they sleepwalk us into billions of euro worth of fines for missing our targets.”
Coghlan suggests the potential boost to the economy, by going green and trying to meet Ireland’s energy targets, would be enormous. “The investment to achieve the goals would also give us warmer homes and cleaner air and create tens of thousands of jobs.”
Ireland’s potential to develop and sustain a thriving green economy has been discussed for some time, but little has been done to take advantage of the opportunities in wind energy, building energy efficient homes, green financing, green agriculture, and electric cars.
Denmark, similar in size to Ireland with an agricultural heritage like our own, has vowed to become the first country in the world to be entirely rid of fossil fuels by 2050.
It’s so far so good for the Danes. Wind energy now accounts for 40% of Denmark’s annual electricity needs and employs almost 30,000 people. Investment in biomass and green tech are also integral to its strategy. With the same investment and focus from an Irish Government, it’s thought that Ireland’s green economy could mirror Denmark’s.
Opportunities for SMEs
The SEAI report highlights the gap between where Ireland is now and where it needs to get to by 2020, to meet its green targets. With time running out for a Government to act, there are some areas where Irish SMEs could take advantage of emerging green business opportunities. These include:
The SEAI says if targets are to be met, up to 75,000 homes and businesses need to be retrofitted for energy efficiency. With an increase in government grants, construction firms with the ability to make the upgrades could do great business.
Ireland needs an additional 200-250MW of wind capacity before 2020, and will need the engineers and manpower to do it. There’s no reason Irish SMEs could not lead the way in this space, perhaps following the Danish model of offering 20% equity in the projects to members of the local community.
20% of all new cars sales in Ireland over the next five years need to be electric vehicles if we are to hit our targets. This figure seems unrealistic, but with a determined government commitment including grants and subsidies, the sales and servicing of electric cars could be a new, vibrant sector.
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