Inconsistency between the government’s commitment to build a new floating LNG storage facility and An Bord Pleanala’s decision to refuse planning permission for an LNG terminal on the Shannon Estuary has challenged Ireland’s credibility among international investors, outgoing Limerick Chamber President Miriam O’Connor has stated.
Speaking at the Limerick Chamber President’s Dinner & Regional Business Awards, attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Ms O’Connor said that despite Ireland’s “unrivalled” opportunity for offshore wind, investors will look to Europe if planning woes continue.
Limerick Chamber is the largest business association in the Mid-West and on Friday, the prestigious annual President’s Award was given to Limerick hurling manager John Kiely on behalf of his four-in-a-row champions.
In addition, eight companies from across the region were presented with individual category awards, with the Overall Company of the Year award going to Carelon Global Solutions Ireland, a US multi-national health-tech company established two years ago in Limerick.
Employing 230 people, it develops services that identify public health interventions to enable people to live healthier lives as well as identify efficiency gains in healthcare provision.
In her President’s address, Ms O’Connor called for a review of planning processes so that delays, and resultant losses, like the 15 years incurred with the Ballylongford LNG project that was recently refused planning permission, are no more.
The loss of the LNG investment, she said, allied to the impending loss of hundreds of jobs at Wyeth and the winding down of the power stations in Tarbert and Moneypoint have been huge blows to an estuary that should instead be treated “like the jewel in the national crown that it can be.”
“The decision of An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission, for the Power Station and LNG terminal at Ballylongford was a further blow to the region. This decision cost New Fortness Energy 15 years, and in the private sector, delay equals cost. We must, urgently review the current planning system and provide minimum statutory timelines for responses to support investment decisions,” said Ms O’Connor.
“We urge Government to again be visionary in their support for the development of floating offshore wind. The Mid-West, with its vast coastline and deep waters, is uniquely positioned to become the global leader in the development of this new and exciting sector.”
Ms O’Connor said that there is enough power off the west coast for 70 million people, adding the region could “help turn Europe green and, doing so, make our biggest ever contribution to the European project.”
The Chamber President called, in particular, for government to accelerate delivery of Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPS), that define the developable area of the Atlantic ocean, together with targets for floating offshore wind in Phase 3.
She also proposed that government fast-track investment in strategic infrastructure for the Shannon Estuary, in order for much-needed grid improvements to take full advantage of the region’s renewable potential.
Ms O’Connor’s comments were added to by President of TUS Professor Vincent Cunnane, who told the Taoiseach, “We have a problem. We need Shannon 2.0 to go ahead but we are starting to wonder if this will really happen. It is unlikely that investors will consider the region without a strong signal now from government.”
In addition to the President’s Award to John Kiely, and Overall Company of the Year to Carelon Global Solutions Ireland, eight category awards were presented.
- Best Emerging Business: Mavarick
- Best SME: Mater Private Network
- Innovation Excellence: ACI worldwide
- Best ESG Business: Environment Impact Award- H & MV Engineering
- Best Not for Profit Award: NOVAS
- Best Employer/Employee Value Proposition Award: Carelon Global Solutions Ireland
- Best Excellence in Customer Experience Award – Retail and Hospitality: No.1 Pery Square
- Best Contribution to the Community Award: Cook Medical