Speech by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., at the launchof the UCD Energy Institute, Government Buildings Wednesday, 18 September 2013
President of UCD, Ladies & Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here to Government Buildings.
Thanks to Hugh for inviting me to officially launch the new UCD Energy Institute which brings together UCD’s different research strands in the field of energy research.
It is fitting that this launch should take place here in Government Buildings given its long association and history with science education and research.
As you entered this building you passed by the statues of the Irish scientists William Rowan Hamilton and Robert Boyle.
For most of its life, the Government Buildings complex housed science and engineering research alongside the exercise of government.
Energy Policy Ambition
Learning from history you could argue that politics and science make for an uncomfortable mix.
I like to think that politics can articulate the people’s ambition. When it comes to science and engineering we all have preconceptions of what the future will look like.
I think we are at an exciting time in energy research. Not a week goes by without another new idea being proposed that can radically change our relationship with energy.
The challenge for everyone is to turn these ideas into everyday applications.
For most of my political career I have been talking about the potential role of renewable energy in the Irish economy yet it is only in the past few years have we seen the changes necessary that allow us to begin to realise that potential.
I firmly believe we are still only starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved in Ireland.
With the right ideas, talent, and support the next decade has the potential to be transformative in how Ireland produces, uses and transmits energy.
That is your challenge.
UCD Energy Institute
Therefore it is very timely that UCD would establish a new Energy Institute to build on its reputation as a leading destination for energy researchers.
As a frequent visitor to the College I have seen at first-hand UCD’s ability to get the best out of their own people; its expertise in working with other research entities across Ireland and internationally, as well as working in partnership with industry.
I understand that a central mission of the Institute is the development of Smart Electricity networks.
This will be key in allowing households and farms to get involved in micro-electricity generation while also transforming the use of electricity within households.
Developing Smart Electricity networks will require new investment and for its part the Government issued last year a policy statement on the strategic importance of transmission and other energy infrastructure.
Hooking up new renewable power sources and their integration into the national grid has become a major engineering challenge and I hope that the Institute can make new progress on this front.
Working with key Irish partners EirGrid and ESB and its key international partners from the US and Denmark the institute will develop and implement two major projects; Future Grid Test Bed and Energy Systems Integration.
It’s important that a country of our size uses its resources to best effect. I’m delighted to see other research institutions linking up together to prioritise different strands of energy research to make sure we make progress together as team Ireland.
When Ireland proves to be an effective test bed environment for these emerging technologies it will be an important step in improving Ireland’s ability to innovate and grow the economy.
Research & Innovation
The Government is keen to play its wider role in supporting investment in science, technology and innovation.
Earlier this year the largest ever state/industry co-funded research investment was announced. Seven world class Science Foundation Ireland research centres will be funded over 6 years supporting key growth areas targeted in our Action Plan for Jobs.
This investment in scientific excellence has, and continues to have, many positive impacts including creating new high-value jobs, attracting and growing business and ensuring Ireland is connected and respected internationally.
We must use research and innovation to make ourselves competitive and in this light the Research Prioritisation Exercise will see the majority of public research funding aligned with 14 priority areas, one of which is Smart Grids and Smart Cities.
In addition this year’s Action Plan for Jobs includes 7 specific “Disruptive Reforms” designed to help deliver projects which can make a real difference to enterprise and jobs in a short space of time.
One of the Disruptive Reforms will see Ireland transformed into one of the most energy efficient economies in Europe by 2020.
Energy & Competitiveness
Ireland is on the road to recovery.
The upcoming budget and the end of 2013 will be an important milestone as the country returns to markets and gets back on its feet.
But getting Ireland working again and the creation of new jobs will require us staying competitive.
Our ability to attract and retain Foreign Direct Investment and sustain Irish Enterprise depends on guaranteeing energy supply at a competitive cost.
A smart energy policy has a pivotal role to play in creating the conditions for rebuilding the economy, creating jobs, delivering regional development and ensuring our wellbeing as a people.
This initiative clearly demonstrates the ability of our public institutions to work together and with other stakeholders in pursuit of common goals and scientific excellence.
I’d like to thank Mr. David O’Reilly and his team in the Energy Advisory Board for developing the Strategy for the new Institute.
As I said, expectations are high for the future of Irish energy development.
I’ve no doubt that UCD’s new Energy Institute will prove an invaluable resource in solving our energy challenges, and realising boundless opportunities.