Government investment in natural gas infrastructure could bring significant economic benefits to businesses and households in the Western Region. By extending and upgrading the grid infrastructure in the northwest, competitiveness for key industry sectors could be enhanced. Businesses are currently paying an estimated €16 million more each year for fuel than they would be if they could use natural gas. Annual energy prices for newly connected households could be reduced by up to €485 per household and almost 61 tonnes of savings in CO2 emissions could be secured. That is according to a policy briefing published by the Western Development Commission (WDC ), ‘Why Invest in Gas? Benefits of natural gas infrastructure for the North West’.
Helen Rochford Brennan, chair of WDC, commented on the report: “Balanced regional development is an important Government objective and a key focus of our work. We identified, in a previous WDC policy briefing, that quality infrastructure is one of the necessary conditions for regional development and we are now calling on Government to commit to investing in natural gas infrastructure in the northwest. While we are fully aware of the current financial strains on the public purse, we would urge Government to explore alternative funding sources to ensure the required investment can be made so that regional and national economic benefits can be secured for the future.
“Such sources could include the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF ), Interreg, or other cross border funding or a loan from the European Investment Bank. We also believe that funding for investment in natural gas infrastructure could be provided for by Government retaining a portion of the Bord Gáis Éireann (BGÉ ) dividends or by reinvesting profits accrued from any sell-off of the company,” added Ms Rochford Brennan.
Natural gas is widely available throughout Ireland and most larger towns and cities are connected to the natural gas grid. Demand for natural gas has grown rapidly since Kinsale gas was brought ashore in the 1970s and as the grid infrastructure expanded, there has been major industrial uptake wherever gas is available. However significant parts of the northwest have no natural gas supply.