The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, T.D. highlighted the ‘enormous potential of renewable energies to transform the economy of the Border, Midland and Western (BMW) Region’. In his address to the BMW Regional Assembly’s annual conference at the TF Royal Theatre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo which was attended by 170 delegates, Minister Rabbitte stated that the exploitation of wind and wave resources offered huge opportunities for regional development.
Opening the conference, Councillor Cyril Burke Cathaoirleach of the BMW Regional Assembly stated that Ireland’s regions required an adequate, reliable and competitively priced energy supply which the western seaboard could meet. Councillor Burke stated that the exploitation of renewable energy would generate economic activity and create much needed employment across the region.
The progress being made in the development of Ireland’s renewable energy sector, both onshore and offshore were addressed by Kevin O’Rourke and Eoin Sweeney both from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. They also identified the challenges to be overcome such as grid access, planning consents, financing and community support.
Mr. Peter Hynes, Mayo Country Manager set out a vision for Mayo to become a ‘word leader’ in the provision of renewable energy. He called for a simplification of the regulatory regime and highlighted the importance of community consultation at an early stage of any renewable energy project.
Mr. Maurice McCarthy, Director of Organic Power Ltd presented an overview of a proposed hydro-electric, wind and wave generation facility on the county Mayo coast with the potential to export electricity in the UK. He emphasised the significant job creation potential including 1,000 during the 3-year period of construction and 250 permanent local jobs.
Speaking following the event Mr. Gerry Finn, Director of the BMW Regional Assembly stated that the EU-funded BMW Regional Operational Programme managed by the Assembly had recognised the significance of renewable energy for the Region. Working in cooperation with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the programme had supported the deployment of renewable technologies such as funding for bio-heat plants and ocean energy.