Engineers Ireland launches Infrastructure Report

Engineers Ireland launches Infrastructure Report

26 May 2011 at 00:00
Ireland requires significant investment and better maintenance in the key infrastructural areas of transport, water, waste and communications, a major engineering report has found.  However, our energy infrastructure has served the country well and is currently of an acceptable standard according to the document.
 
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, launching the report today in Buswells Hotel, stated: “In order to maximise the return on scarcer public resources for capital investment, the Government has recently announced a review of capital investment policy in the years to 2016.  This work will ensure that the capital programme is retuned to bring consistency with the Programme for Government and have the maximum impact on sustainable employment creation and economic recovery.  This report is therefore timely providing as it does a view on the status of infrastructure in the transport, energy, communication, water services, and waste sectors, as well as the medium and longer term issues facing these sectors.”
 
The report, which uses a grading system applied by expert members of Engineers Ireland, analyses five key areas of Ireland’s infrastructure: energy, transport, water, waste and communications.  Energy infrastructure, allocated a ‘B’ grade, achieved the best mark of the five areas evaluated, and was deemed of an acceptable standard, able to meet demand but requiring investment in the next five years.  However, the other four areas received a ‘C’ grade which represents infrastructure that is inadequately maintained, unable to meet peak demand and requiring significant investment.  None of the areas assessed achieved the highest possible ‘A’ grade.
 
Speaking at the launch, John Power, Director General of Engineers Ireland, said the report was the first in a series intended to measure Ireland’s success in improving its international competitiveness through productive infrastructure.  “Too often in Ireland, the best of plans are not carried through to fulfilment: this must change.  In preparing this report we are cognisant of our country’s financial difficulties but believe that every effort should be made to invest in productive infrastructure, which will always have a positive payback.  We hope that this report will help to prioritise the projects that are most critical to our future.”
 
The report states that energy infrastructure has served the country well but calls for a scaled-up energy conservation programme to reduce energy consumption by 20% in 2020, including full support for the National Retrofit Programme. There should be a review of the planning process to remove the high planning risk for energy infrastructure projects that are vital to security of energy availability.  There should also be investment in research and development of ocean and offshore wind, marine energy and smart grid technologies over the next year.  Strengthening of the electricity transmission grid in accordance with the Eirgrid “Grid 25” targets is vital according to the document.  The new North-South Interconnector should be fast-tracked and there should be completion of the Corrib Gas field project.   The report also states that Ireland should not exclude consideration of nuclear power in the long-term. 
 
The mixed nature of Ireland’s transport system requires a first annual inventory of the condition of national primary, secondary and regional roads according to the report.  There should be commitment to a funding programme for integrated (public/private) transport plans in each of the Gateway Cities within 12 months.  The report also calls for a decision on which one of the major transport projects in Dublin is to proceed and for work to commence.  There was also a need for a ports plan to access deeper water for quicker turnaround times and the accommodation of larger vessel sizes.
 
The document cites Ireland’s improved water quality but the need to tackle several challenges, particularly in flood prevention.  A universal water charging and metering programme should commence within twelve months and there should be a reduction in unaccounted for water (UFW) to 30% nationally in the next five years. 
 
The waste industry is proactively moving towards an integrated approach to waste management according to the report.  However, there is a necessity to vest the ownership of waste in local authorities as well as better regulation of the collection of household waste by a fair, transparent and competitive tender process.  There should also be dedicated expert waste management engineers available to industry from university courses within five years.
 
Immediate measures are required across communications infrastructure including lowering regional broadband costs to match rates available in Dublin.  Making broadband available to all parts of the State, including islands, should be a priority as should making high-speed broadband available to more than 95% of the population within twelve months.   Bringing broadband costs down to not more than 5% above EU and UK norms within five years is also paramount with the report also targeting national and regional broadband infrastructure to be in the top quartile of European league tables in terms of availability, uptake and speed by 2016.
 
A copy of the report can be found here