Conference hears of Dundalk and Louth’s potential as global players in Smart Green innovations

Louth’s potential to play a major part in revolutionising Ireland’s Energy infrastructure was highlighted at the East Coast Smart Green Growth Conference.

The conference, held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Dundalk was organised by Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, in association with Louth Economic Forum and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Such was the interest in the innovative half-day conference that it was attended not only by Dundalk business people but by representatives from the local authorities as well as representatives from Newry and Mourne, Larne, Cork, Meath, Monaghan, Wicklow and Scotland.

The conference was chaired by Padraic White, Chairman of the Louth Economic Forum. In his welcoming address to delegates he spoke of the need for Ireland to change its attitude in relation to a new energy infrastructure: “We are looking to the new government to bring a new focus and energy. We need a new approach to this.

A response to his call came from speaker Fergus O’Dowd TD, Minister of State for the NewEra Project in the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources & Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, who spoke on how NewEra will focus on major changes to energy infrastructure in Ireland. “If we don’t change what we do, then things are not going to happen. This Government is determined to change this.

Chief Operations officer of the SEAI, Brian Motherway, was generous in his praise of Dundalk’s leading role in Smart Green innovations, mentioning the DkIT wind turbine and O’Fiaich College solar panels, along with success in private businesses. “There has been a successful start in this region. People around here get ‘it’.

The east coast’s potential should not be underestimated, with Louth playing a central role in Ireland and Ireland playing a huge role on the world stage. “If we can build on today then I really think the world is our oyster,” said Mr Motherway.

Also speaking at the East Coast Smart Green Growth Conference was Brian Britton of NOW Ireland, the National Offshore Wind Energy Association of Ireland on ‘Offshore – Ireland’s Export Opportunity’ and Bob Hanna of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources who spoke on the ISLES Project, a collaboration between the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland.  ISLES is currently assessing the feasibility of creating an offshore interconnected transmission network and sub-sea electricity grid based on renewable energy sources off the coast of western Scotland and the Irish Sea, due for completion this year.

Speaking after the conference, Dundalk Chamber of Commerce President, Paddy Malone, said the event had given encouragement to the Chamber to continue in its efforts in this area. “Dundalk businesses in traditional engineering, construction  and in other areas such as services need to focus on this new industry on our doorstep. Dundalk port may be able to play a part in servicing the turbines while Clogherhead and Greenore handle the larger aspects. This is an industry that will happen, will create jobs and cannot relocate to a cheap labour market. The Chamber intends to work with Enterprise Ireland, the County Enterprise Board and other stakeholders to insure Dundalk maximises the potential of this sector.

On the response to the Conference he said “Everyone who attended has now a better idea of how we can all benefit from developing Smart Green innovations, be it in a private business or in the local authority. Great strides have already been taken in Dundalk but I feel there is now a renewed focus after the message was brought home to us that our success in this area has the potential to go global.