The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced today what he termed "a major new initiative", which will see Science Foundation Ireland adding sustainable energy as a third sector which it will now target for investment. He said Energy is a key part of the Government's Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, which in turn is strongly reflected in sectoral investment under the National Development Plan. The Government will be investing in the order of €200 million in energy related Research and Development over the coming years.
Speaking at a conference on sustainable energy in Dublin, Ahern told the Energy Forum 2008 that "currently 90% of our energy comes from imported fossil fuels. This is an extremely high exposure - the average import figure for other EU countries is closer to 65%. Around 60% of the energy we use comes from imported oil products. We are using 165,000 barrels of oil each day, which is some ten pints of oil for every man, woman and child each and every day of the year."
The Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Prof. Frank Gannontoday welcomed the decision announced by the Government at the Energy Summit to extend the remit of SFI to include the broad thematic area of sustainable energy and energy efficient technologies.
Commenting of the Government's decision Professor Gannon, stated “The provision of sustainable energy and efficient energy technologies is a vital component of long-term economic development for Ireland. SFI funds high quality frontier research across a broad range of sectors and particularly in the areas of Biotechnology and Information and Communications Technology. In the process we support both novel research and the training of high quality scientists and engineers. This funding and the extension of the remit will facilitate further the investment and the building of further capacity in high quality research in this essential thematic sector. SFI is looking forward to the challenge of addressing these issues and others set down in the Government Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (SSTI). This investment should enable Irish based researchers to make an important contribution to this global issue and bring economic benefits to Ireland.”
Eamon Ryan, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, who hosted the forum, said it marked a demonstration of the cross-Government commitment to the new energy era.
Ryan also unveiled a study by Sustainable Energy Ireland on the benefits of energy efficiency to the Irish economy. It found that by meeting the 2020 national energy efficiency target, the economic benefits will outweigh the costs by close to €300 million per annum.
The analysis shows that thevarious sectors could reduce their energy use by one quarter based solely on actions that pay for themselves through their energy cost savings. This economic savings potential equates to a CO2 emissions reduction of over six million tonnes. The study also shows that these savings could reduce peak electricity demand by over 1200 MW, bringing significant benefits to the Irish electricity system.
Both the Minister's Department(a press release announcing publication, has been uploaded) nor its agency Sustainable Energy Irelandhave bothered to update the report on their websites.