ESB-Equinor announcement must lead to fast-tracking of establishment of Shannon Estuary Task Force – Limerick Chamber

Friday, April 9th 2021:  Limerick Chamber has today called on Government to fast-track the establishment of its planned Shannon Estuary Task Force to realise the unrivalled opportunity for impacting climate change and job creation through renewable energy generation on the west coast.

Welcoming the announcement of a joint venture by the ESB and Equinor for a planned floating offshore wind farm and hydrogen production facility at Moneypoint, Chamber CEO Dee Ryan said that it verifies the unprecedented opportunity, of national significance, that exists for the region and she urged Government to move swiftly to capitalise on it.

Ms Ryan said that the planned investment by the ESB further supports the view from within the Mid-West of the opportunity to transform the Shannon Estuary and wider west of Ireland into a green energy hub. And she welcomed the commitment of the ESB to collaborate with Shannon Foynes Port Company for use of its deep-water port at Foynes in the development phase.

“As recent as two weeks ago, at the launch of the Climate Bill, an Tánaiste Leo Varadkar talked about using the Shannon Estuary as a hub for renewable energy and hydrogen and about initiating a Task Force here to deliver on this opportunity. Today’s announcement validates what the Tánaiste said and we ask that plans for a Task-Force be fast-tracked with immediate effect so that we not alone maximise this ESB-Equinor opportunity but build out from that to capitalise on the much greater opportunity that exists.

“The west coast has been naturally gifted with deep waters in the Shannon Estuary and unrivalled wind capacity off the coast. The race has already begun within Europe to capture that wind energy using floating offshore and hydrogen production technology.  Today’s announcement is a brilliant start and sees Ireland taking a further step towards unlocking this transformative unrivalled green energy asset on the west coast. But  we must move fast through coordinated strategy development, policy and legislative change, skills development and investment in facilities, not least at Foynes Port, to ensure that we seize the opportunity to become a major global player in renewable energy.

“We’re also very encouraged by the ESB’s commitment today to work in collaboration with Shannon Foynes Port Company in the development phase. With the deep-water port at Foynes and plans for the reinstatement of the rail network from Limerick to Foynes Port and the direct connection to the motorway network from Foynes, the port will play a critical role in realising this unprecedented opportunity from renewable energy on the western seaboard.”

Ms Ryan continued: “Just short of a century ago, this region, through the Ardnacrusha Canal project, delivered an energy revolution for Ireland that transformed what was then a fledging State and here we are today, with the opportunity to do it again.”

Ms Ryan predicted that the ESB-Equinor joint venture will trigger further private investment in the region in the coming decades. “The involvement of Equinor in this project, who are a global leader in floating offshore wind, illustrates just how exciting the opportunity is on the Estuary and off the Irish west coast. While today’s announcement talks about 1,400 megawatts of wind energy, a report published by Shannon Foynes Port Company late last year showed that the available resource could be 50 times that.

“We have the expertise in the region, the natural assets and now the technology. We need Government to put the framework in place to attract more investment.  If it does, it will transform our economy and, in keeping with the goals of Project Ireland 2040, rebalance economic opportunities on this side of the island.”

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