The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) yesterday published a snapshot of the sector, Inside the Smart Economy, at a seminar for the industry, its financiers and relevant State agencies.
After the event, SEAI chief operations officer Dr Brian Motherway said one of the issues that the report identified was the need for State support for the industry, which was just beginning to find its feet.
Mr Motherway said that did not necessarily mean grants but through adjusting procurement policies so that the companies involved could sell their technology, goods and services to the State.
He said this would give the businesses a meaningful revenue stream on the one hand and also allow them to demonstrate the worth of their products to other potential customers.
Mr Motherway’s point is echoed in the report by Joe O’Carroll, managing director of Imperative Energy, which supplies renewable energy generated by biomass to industrial and commercial customers.
Mr O’Carroll said that in Britain, the public sector was installing a lot of new-energy technology, while many European countries obliged public buildings to use green energy.
“We’re not saying that the State should pay more for these technologies or that it should use unproven technology,” Mr Motherway said.
“In fact, we have one example where you could heat the buildings used by the public service using biomass for the same price that they are paying for oil.”
From a policy point of view, Mr Motherway said that taking action like this would help to demonstrate that the Government’s commitment to clean technology and the smart economy was real.
Certainty around policy helps to attract investment in the sector, and Mr Motherway said if the Government continued to make its intentions clear, that would help to draw business to the Republic and also encourage investment from home-grown firms.
Rita Shah, co-founder of plastics recycler Shabra, says in the report that the Government needs to be more transparent about future strategies that will affect the industry.
Mr Motherway said some initiatives were making the right kind of impact abroad. The Republic was now recognised as one of the centres for the development of technology designed to generate electricity from wave power. This was partly due to a number of measures backed by the State, including the creation of test beds off the west coast.
Wave and tidal power have yet to be developed to the point where they are commercial, but it is increasingly looking like this is possible. Openhydro, which has made a number of advances recently with a tidal power system, is included in the report.
Mr Motherway said the clean technology sector in Ireland was not solely focused on researching and developing new technologies.
“It’s not all boffins and PhDs; we have family building companies that branched out into clean tech, and we have university spin-offs. In fact, we have a really diverse range of products and services in the industry here; it’s not all boffins and PhDs.”