Engineers Ireland says infrastructure investment must be targeted at Green and digital recovery
Now is the opportune time to invest in public infrastructure to drive the green and digital recovery and create much needed jobs in the wake of Covid-19, a new report by Engineers Ireland has said.
In its annual analysis of Ireland’s infrastructure, the Engineers Ireland ‘State of Ireland 2020’ report stated that significant investment in decarbonisation infrastructure was critical to ensuring Ireland met its zero-carbon goals and to generate sustainable employment moving forward. This requires energy-system integration based on the direct electrification of transport and heating, Ireland meeting its 70% renewable electricity 2030 target, a national hydrogen energy strategy, and a radical national retrofit programme across Ireland’s communities.
The report also endorsed Ibec’s recent call for an increase in capital spending by €25 billion over the lifetime of the National Development Plan based on a decarbonisation focus and aligned to the National Planning Framework.
By ensuring the Climate Action Bill 2019 is enacted, and through investment in green technologies, Ireland will also be able to support its zero-carbon goals by becoming eligible for funding from the €1 trillion which will be mobilised by the European Green Deal Investment Plan, the report also suggested.
The ‘assessment pinpointed energy system integration as critical to Ireland achieving its 2050 carbon-neutral goals through the use of hydrogen as an energy source – requiring policy support and a comprehensive national development strategy in this regard – as well as a dedicated seaport for offshore wind development to facilitate the construction of new wind farms. Delivering the renewable infrastructure needed for 70% renewable electricity by 2030 will create approximately 6,000 direct jobs in Ireland and an additional 9,000 indirect jobs according to the report.
It also highlighted the important role both education and digitalisation will play in engineering Irish recovery over the coming years. With remote working now likely to be a permanent part of economic activity, digitalisation is transforming how people live, work and learn. This requires the accelerated rollout of the National Broadband Plan, preparation for 5G, reinforced cybersecurity, and a digital-first public sector, the report indicated.
Potential cost of an increasing digital divide in Ireland was also a key insight from the report. The critical importance of the state continuing to develop ambitious strategies in relation to digitalisation. The development of digital hubs in every county in Ireland could potentially generate €312 million for the regional economy and create over 8,400 new jobs across over 1,000 new businesses, the report said. The higher-education system needs a sustainable funding model to respond to Covid-19 and prepare for longer-term transitions. New ways of learning, such as professional engineering apprenticeships show a way forward to fill skills gaps emerging for the sustainable recovery, it said.
Speaking at the launch of the report, director general of Engineers Ireland, Caroline Spillane said: “In the wake of the pandemic and with a no-deal Brexit looming, it is even more important now to front load investment in green infrastructure that can boost enduring job creation and economic activity – thereby contributing to long-term sustainable, inclusive growth for Ireland. Communities must be at the heart of this investment, and this report highlights a clear pathway and the real opportunity that exists to make sustainability, job creation and climate action central to Ireland’s recovery, as well as pinpointing many of the measures needed to drive Ireland’s energy transition as part of Iast week’s published Climate Action Bill.
“At a time when the state can borrow at historically low rates and with funds available to reward innovative green technology development through the European Green Deal Investment Plan, now is exactly the moment for targeted investment in vital infrastructure. The government has already indicated that it will prioritise capital investment to increase employment and deliver projects in health, transport, education, housing and other sectors, and this is extremely welcome. The New Green Deal requires greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions of 7% per annum on average and carbon neutrality by 2050, and the engineering industry stands ready to respond to the need for new and innovative engineering solutions to make all this a reality.”
“Ireland’s capital spending across the lifetime of the National Development Plan, which the government has said is now to be reviewed, must be ambitious and focused on decarbonisation and balanced regional development,” said Maurice Buckley, president of Engineers Ireland. “This is very much in keeping with the European Union policy on climate action and drive towards greater digitalisation to deliver a better quality of life, new jobs and sustainable economic growth.”
Buckley added: “The pandemic has demonstrated the agility of the nation to engineer dramatic improvements for the good of society, including innovation in healthcare technology and the built environment.”
To access the report in full, visit www.engineersireland.ie/listings/resource/467