Entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities: Flooding and Renewable Energy in 2017’, the conference reflected the role of engineering in assessing and mitigating challenges while excelling in innovation to meet future energy demands and flooding risks.
Recurring themes from keynote speakers were the necessity to plan for a sustainable future, adopting different ways of heating our homes, choosing different modes of transport and proactively addressing impacts of climate change, such as flooding. The conference delegates heard that to address these challenges, Europe and not just Ireland needs to significantly increase its number of engineering graduates.
Dermot Byrne, President of Engineers Ireland, said: “When we were considering our conference theme, I wanted, as President, to have a focus on energy challenges and opportunities. This is because as we face into the remaining 80 years of this century, we are, I believe, facing the key issue of our time, the outcome of which is far from certain, and which will be shaped by how we respond to climate change. Climate change is, I believe, the greatest challenge of our time.
“And it is this challenge which links the theme of our conference: Flooding and Renewable Energy. In an Irish context, flooding, and rising sea levels, represents perhaps our greatest climate challenge. Renewable energy, of which we have an abundance represents our greatest opportunity, though not of course without its own challenges.”
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD delivered the keynote address to delegates. He said: “Ireland relies on high emission, and imported fossil fuels to meet over 88% of our energy needs. This costs half a million euro every hour. That’s a cost we cannot afford in cash, and which our planet cannot afford at all. The word ‘global’ in global warming, accurately summarises the incontrovertible science underlying that imminent threat. It is also in its vastness, potentially daunting, even discouraging. How can any one country, especially a small one, make a difference? How can any one of us, meaningfully contribute?
“It is the task of politics, to bridge the chasm between global challenge and national responsibility, and between Ireland’s obligation and every single citizen’s responsibility. Energy and Climate Action are inextricably linked. Using less energy, and using it more efficiently, is the most cost effective and accessible way for us all to take action on climate change.”
The Minister also said in relation specifically to biomass production in Ireland that he was aiming to accelerate “the development of our emerging domestic biomass industry. “ He will “soon bring a memo to Cabinet on the establishment of BioEnergy Ireland. This entity will drive efficiencies of scale by making biomass available to the entire market and procuring from all sources.
“In the near term, these sources will include some from abroad. This is to meet the projected shortfall in domestic supply, however, as more Irish forestry matures over the coming decade, domestic product will gradually displace imports. BioEnergy Ireland will work to build on progress with a range of initiatives designed to further promote afforestation, to improve private forest efficiencies and to develop the demand for biomass fuel itself.”
Marie Donnelly, former Director at DG Energy, European Commission said that society needs to adapt new modes of thinking about how they travel and heat their homes.
Erik Kraaij, (Dep.) Director of the National River and Sea Defence Programme, The Netherlands said €1.1billion a year is spent on flood measures though a ‘Delta Fund’ in his country where 9 million people live below sea level. 40% of that funding invested, is in maintenance of existing flood defences.
Speakers sharing the platform at this day-long conference included:
• Erik Kraaij, (Dep.) Director of the National River and Sea Defence Programme, The Netherlands;
• Dermot Byrne, President of Engineers Ireland;
• Conall Boland, Board Member and Deputy Chairperson, An Bord Pleanála;
• Marie Donnelly, former Director for New and Renewable Sources of Energy Efficiency and Innovation at DG Energy, European Commission;
• Anthony Cawley, Hydrologist and Visiting Lecturer at University of Limerick;
• Mark Adamson, Head of Flood Relief and Risk Management Division, Office of Public Works;
• Dr Paul Quinn, School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University;
• Gary Healy, CEO, Irish Wind Energy Association;
• Marie Hayden, Manager of Scenario Planning, EirGrid; and
• Tom Marren, CEO, CES Energy
Speakers shared their experience and knowledge of the resources, techniques, innovation and focus required to meet Ireland’s future challenges and opportunities.