Investors criticise strategy for smart economy


GOVERNMENT EFFORTS to develop the “smart economy” were criticised by investors at a conference on green energy in Dublin yesterday.

SSE Group which generates 2,200 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources – with a further 15,000 megawatts under development – said it had almost €8 billion to invest by 2013, some €3 billion of which was destined for renewable resources. But unless the regulatory environment changed in Ireland, it said it “would be looking elsewhere”.

PJ Rudden, who devised the State’s eight regional waste management plans, said the move to mechanical biological treatment proposed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley, was “likely to cost the country billions”.

In a further blow to the smart economy strategy, the chairman of the Commission for Energy Regulation, Michael Tutty said he was still “waiting to hear” details of “the plan for electric cars”.

Mr Tutty said electric refuelling points would be launched today, but it was still unknown “how the electricity was to be paid for, will motorists pay for the infrastructure”.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day conference organised by the Irish Wind Energy Association Gregor Alexander, financial director, SSE, said the Irish market was becoming less attractive to international investors.

He said SSE, which owns Airtricity, was “increasingly being forced to turn down investment opportunities in Ireland as the returns do not come close to what we can achieve in other European markets, including those with lesser wind resources”.

Mr Alexander blamed the cost base here and low State support.

But he also said his company was very disappointed to see the latest allocations of quotas for wind generation, Gate 111, going to “Irish semi-States like Bord Gáis, Bord Na Móna and the ESB. Ireland is potentially a really good market to invest in because of its vast wind resources, but if we and other international companies interested in this market are to continue to invest here to the extent we would like, these concerns will have to be addressed or else the opportunity will be lost”.

Mr Rudden told The Irish Times the waste management industry was critical of Mr Gormley’s efforts to change waste management policy.

He said investment in public-private partnerships in Ireland would be severely shaken if Mr Gormley interfered in the contract signed between the builders of the Poolbeg incinerator and Dublin City Council.