By Denis Collins, CEO ActionZero and Former Chair IDA Ireland Regional Development & Board Director
Last week, ActionZero had the opportunity to participate in a climate action discussion with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, the Choose New Jersey delegation, UCC and Orsted. I felt like I had hit the trifecta at Monmouth Park!
Why you ask? Well, the discussion brought together three of my favourite things…
- Bruce Springsteen (BIG fan)
- The Giants football team (lifelong fan)
- Climate Action/decarbonisation (which is something very near and dear to our hearts at ActionZero.)
Common Energy Goals
It turns out that NJ and Ireland have very similar clean energy goals.
Ireland is aiming, for example, to increase the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030, with an increased target of up to 5 Gigawatts of offshore wind energy. New Jersey on the other hand, want to be at 50% clean energy by 2030, with a goal of 7.5 Gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035.
With similar goals, you might expect we would share a lot of the same challenges in paving the road to a greener future. And it turns out, we do! The beauty of this event was that we were given the platform to discuss these challenges, share our knowledge and experience and ultimately strategise ways to overcome them.
What is NJ doing in offshore wind and how does it compare to Ireland?
NJ is investing heavily
In 2020 NJ announced plans for a significant investment of $300-400M to build an offshore-wind component manufacturing facility and the New Jersey Wind Port. This new facility will be used for essential staging, assembly and manufacturing activities related to all offshore wind projects on the East Coast of the U.S. It is expected to generate approximately 1500 jobs in NJ.
In Ireland on the other hand, we have added no new offshore wind generation facilities since 2004 (when we invested in the largest offshore wind farm in the world off the coast of Wicklow).
Political will is strong in NJ
Governor Murphy and I had a detailed discussion on how integral political will is in accelerating climate action. Political will is strong in New Jersey and as a result they are making things happen at pace.
EirGrid recently revealed that 75% of the electricity flowing through Ireland’s national grid could come from renewable resources like wind. Yet somehow, even amid an energy crisis, our ambition and impetus for decarbonisation remains low.
According to the Chief Executive of Wind Energy Ireland, Noel Cunniffe, it should take An Bord Pleanala 18 weeks to process renewable energy project applications. In recent times however, it is taking more than 60 weeks. Applications to EirGrid for access to the national electricity grid are facing similar lead-times.
What learnings can we take from NJ?
Now more than ever, Ireland needs government intervention. We need significant investment in new infrastructure, more resources, and targeted reforms to our planning and regulatory frameworks so we can expedite the delivery of renewable energy projects. Quite simply, we need to make renewable energy an urgent and ambitious priority.
New Jersey has aligned political will and public sector investment with industry – and it’s working.
This is an example for us all in Ireland, Europe and globally.
 Government of Ireland, Climate Action Plan 2021.