Transformation in Action

Chamber Partner profile

by Karen Ferris, Ervia

Ireland’s second largest semi-State body, Ervia is focussed on safeguarding and upgrading key national infrastructure to meet the challenges of a growing population and support Ireland’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

Responsible for operating the nation’s vital water and gas networks through its regulated businesses Irish Water and Gas Networks Ireland, it also provides dark fibre broadband infrastructure through Aurora Telecom.

Ervia is overseeing one of the most significant programmes of capital delivery in the State as it continues to invest significantly in a number of large-scale infrastructure projects across the country.

By 2021, Ervia is predicted to represent about 20% of all construction activity in the State. Based on a recent report compiled by EY-DKM, the company spent €1.45bn in the Irish economy, supported 26,000 jobs and added €2bn to Ireland’s GDP in 2017 alone.

The scale of Ervia is clear when you consider that Irish Water provides water and wastewater treatment to over 1.5 million households and 200,000 businesses daily, with demand expected
to increase to a further 555,000 households between now and 2040. Gas Networks Ireland equally supplies around 700,000 customers with natural gas and is also an important component of our electricity system.

Gas-fired power stations provide a secure and flexible low-carbon back-up to the high levels of renewable energy integrated on the National Grid. This has included keeping the system going during a 10-day period in June 2018 when wind produced less than 5% of electricity demand.

The gas network also has tremendous potential to play a pivotal and game-changing role in transforming Ireland to a low-carbon economy by 2050. Ervia is investing in a series of grid injection points to increase the level of renewable gas in the network with a target of 20% by 2030.

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Momentum in delivery

The positive impact of Irish Water’s investment in water and wastewater systems is already being felt by communities right across the country. Over €800m was spent in 2018 on new and upgraded water infrastructure to support economic growth and development through a number of critical projects to protect health and quality of life and directly improve the environment.

This was highlighted by the completion of a new link pipeline in Co Wicklow earlier this year, on time and on budget, which was part of a €200m investment in the Vartry Water Supply Scheme Project. The supply area stretches through North Wicklow to Dublin, and serves more than 200,000 people. The tunnel was at critical risk of collapse since the mid- 1990s. The investment removes this risk and provides a safer, more secure water supply to the people of Wicklow and Dublin.

Other key projects included the commencement of works on an €80m upgrade to the Ringsend plant and the rehabilitation of 135km of water pipes and the repair of over 5,700 leaks as part of a €500m spend on Irish Water’s ‘Leakage Reduction Programme’.

While there are significant challenges ahead, it’s important to reflect on the progress achieved and the momentum in delivery, particularly with critical projects ahead including the Greater Dublin Drainage scheme and the Water Supply Project.

Transforming our energy landscape

Looking ahead, Ervia is actively progressing a number of ambitious, innovative solutions to facilitate the significant transformation required to our energy network. Ervia has a key role to play in decarbonising Ireland, in particular the electricity, domestic heating and transport sectors. Imperative to achieving these CO2 reductions for Ireland are solutions such as carbon-free biomethane for heat and transport, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles and hydrogen.

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Ervia is committed to supporting geo-engineering projects that can significantly reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions including assessing the potential for large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) at the near-depleted Kinsale gas field off the coast of Cork. Ervia has highlighted the potential for the gas network to reduce Ireland’s emissions by at least 15 million tonnes of CO2 per annum by 2050 as part of its submission to Ireland’s Draft National Energy & Climate Plan (NECP) 2021-2030.

In terms of security of supply in 2018, Gas Networks Ireland successfully completed commissioning the Cluden to Brighouse Bay pipeline in Scotland, resulting in full twinning of our two gas interconnectors between Ireland and the UK. This is crucial for Ireland in reinforcing security of energy supply for the island and supporting decarbonisation. It involved constructing a new 50km high pressure gas pipeline, which feeds two subsea pipelines between Ireland and the UK.

Project Ireland 2040

A key partner to Government in the rollout of Project Ireland 2040 and the transition to a low-carbon economy, Ervia is making significant progress in its investment plans for critical infrastructure to support Ireland’s ongoing economic development.

As well as being committed to the transformation necessary to ensure safe and reliable water infrastructure supporting development as the population grows, it is investing in its national dark fibre network to establish a return path between Cork and Dublin. In addition, it is actively supporting a combination of ambitious actions across a range of sectors to enable Ireland to significantly reduce its emissions targets and meet its climate targets.

Our national gas and water networks support the social and economic development of Ireland and are playing strategic roles in the transition of Ireland to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable economy by 2050.