By Nathalie Millauer
GLOBE-Net, October 31, 2012 - For a nation
battling double digit unemployment and near total dependency on
imported fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, the growing job
creation potential of renewable energy in Ireland is like a breath
of fresh air.
The Irish government has been battling growing unemployment for
the last five years - currently at 14.8 percent - while at the same
time seeking ways to lower the country's carbon emissions to meet
the reduction target of 20 percent set by the European
The Irish renewable energy sector is starting to demonstrate its
potential to create new jobs and more sustainable energy, according
to the Irish Wind and Energy Association (IWEA).
During its recent annual fall meeting in Killarney, Ireland, the
Association estimated the Irish renewable energy sector could
create 30,000 new jobs by 2020, but only if the government
instituted policy changes targeting a higher share of renewables in
the national energy mix.
Most wind energy farms in Ireland are
state owned and, as pointed out in the Irish Energy and Wind
Association's statements, the government is responsible to
establish trade agreements and energy targets to enhance clean
Roughly 90 percent of the island's energy supply is currently
derived from imported fossil fuels, making it the least
self-sufficient industrialized economy in this respect.
The most promising area for employment growth is the wind energy
sector, which has been proven to be highly efficient due to the
island's location and geography. Ireland is the best location for
wind power generation in Europe due to its exposure to high winds
from the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea.
While already among the top ten producers of wind energy in
Europe, Ireland has enough resources to supply not only a much
larger part of its own energy needs, but also the needs of other
European countries, most notably the UK.
Wind energy in Ireland has seen substantial growth in the last
fifteen years. In the last year alone, wind energy generating
capacity increased by 17 percent and almost doubled between 2002
and 2011. Around 19 percent of electricity supply is via renewable
generation, of which 15.6 percent is wind, the International Energy
Wind energy dominates the Irish renewable energy market which
makes it an important tool for reaching its own goal of 40 percent
of electricity demand from renewable energy sources by
The IEA estimates that Irish wind energy can exceed this goal
and has the potential to generate enough wind sourced electricity
to meet more than the domestic demand by 2030. In addition, the
potential economic value of electricity generated by wind could
reach almost 15 billion EUR (19 billion USD) by 2050.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland is developing a
template for local authority renewable energy strategies. An
important part of the project will be the strategy for wind
According to the IEA, "the ultimate aim is to develop
consistency nationally across all the local authorities" and to
"identify initiatives and next steps to progress this issue with a
broad range of stakeholders."
According to theIEA's Wind Energy 2011 Annual Report, the wind
energy sector alone could create 20,000 new jobs by 2040.
Ireland is a Trading Nation
Despite its dependency on foreign sourced fossil fuels, the
Irish Republic is one of the top five international economies in
the world. Its high level of trade in the food and minerals sectors
has helped sustain continued foreign investors interest even during
the recession. The US is the leading foreign investor in the Irish
Both of these factors are supporting the country's slow recovery
from the recession. But in the long run they will not be the
main factors leading to increased job creation.
While job creation is one of the Irish government's top
priorities, its economic action plans to date have not
explicitly pointed to the employment potential of the renewable
energy sector even though other major national economies and the
International Energy Agency (IEA)have gone on record in promoting
the sector's possibilities.
The Association suggests an export goal of 6 GW of electricity
to the UK, roughly one third of the 18 GW needed by the
neighbouring island nation. IWEA argues this export component alone
could create 18,000 jobs by 2020. Ireland should aim to produce an
additional 4GW of wind energy for its own use, says IWEA.
IWEA sees an important potential trading partner in
the UK, which has not yet met its own clean energy targets and
needs to secure a higher share of renewable energy in order to meet
a goal set by the European Union to derive 15 percent of its energy supply from clean sources by
Overall, the outlook for the Wind energy market and
its contribution to job creation is promising. However, both the
Irish national government and the involvement of other EU players
will be key to the initiation of appropriate action plans and
incentives for the industry.
Editors Note: Recent research published by
GLOBE Advisors on the Clean Energy Supply and Storage Market in
British Columbia confirms the significant employment opportunities
that exist in the renewable energy sector, particularly for
engineering, technical, and scientific research services; project
management; information and communications technology; plant/
facility operations and maintenance; and management and
professional business support services. Complete details on the
GLOBE Advisors research are available
Nathalie Millauer is a part-time intern pursuing
her Interdisciplinary Master's degree in North American
Studies at the University of Bonn in Germany. Her internship
while in Vancouver is focussed on public relations in the
area of food security, food policy, sustainability and the green