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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 28th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Green Energy Can Spur Ireland’s Return To Growth.
March 29, 2010, Ireland
By Barbara Lewis

Renewable energy should play a major role in spurring Ireland back to growth now the government and economy are both showing signs of stability, Ireland’s energy minister said in an interview.

Eamon Ryan kept his post as minister for communications, energy and natural resources in a cabinet reshuffle last week after intense media speculation of tensions between the governing parties, Fianna Fail and junior coalition partner the Green Party, to which Ryan belongs.

Ryan said he felt the government and the economy were on a more stable footing.

“We went through so many difficult decisions last year with regard to banking and the Lisbon Treaty (on streamlining EU institutions). That gives a certain stability and the feeling we have the ability to get over difficult issues,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Green Party conference in Waterford, southeastern Ireland, at the weekend.

“I’d be reasonably confident that we would start to see the economy turning slightly and that we will start to see the government get a reasonable amount of stability.”

Economists have shared the government view that growth would resume in the second half of this year, although figures last week showed the economy had shrunk more than expected late last year.

Renewable energy and the kind of innovative approach labeled the “smart economy” have a huge part to play in stimulating Ireland’s economy, Ryan said.

So far, around 12,000 new jobs in renewables and the smart economy have been created of the 120,000 targeted by the government for 2020.

The country has also set itself a goal of sourcing 40 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and Ryan said this could be exceeded, allowing Ireland to switch from being 90 percent dependent on imported fossil fuel to an energy exporter.

“We can get 40 percent of renewable electricity on the system in the next 10 years,” he said. “We think we can beat that target. No problem at all. We should become a renewable energy exporter.”

Ireland’s deep financial problems should not hinder funding, he said, as the private sector had proved willing to finance “bankable” projects, especially as costs had begun to fall.

COMPETITIVE WIND

“It’s becoming competitive. It’s what’s getting funding. It’s what’s getting built,” he said of wind farms.

“The advantage we have is that we have very competitive power. The support required is substantially lower than in, say, Britain. The wind is significantly stronger. We have some of the best wind resources in the world.”

Ryan consistently emphasized the pragmatic as well as the ideological and said the experience of Greens in government elsewhere — in Finland and previously in Germany — proved “there is certainly realpolitik in the Green Party.”

Ryan, who used to run a green tourism cycling business, said he wanted to see green money-making at the heart of Dublin’s business district and cited the government initiative to set up a green International Financial Services Center (IFSC) for carbon trading and green fund management, for instance.

“There is a whole plethora of green financial activities,” he said. “It is being pursued as a government initiative under the auspices of the existing IFSC.”

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