Talking Europe speaks to Eamon Ryan, the leader of the Irish Green Party and minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport in the current coalition government in Dublin. We caught up with him after he attended a signing ceremony for the Celtic Interconnector, a project that will link the electricity grids of Ireland and France for the first time. Due to come into service in late 2026 or early 2027, the cable will provide power in both directions. Ryan says the project is part of a "new industrial revolution" that will connect European countries and ultimately reduce their energy dependence on Russia and the Middle East.
Explaining what the Celtic Interconnector will do, Ryan said: "We're connecting France and Ireland for the first time. It's a small cable, but it can take large volumes of power, over a length of 550 kilometres, and when it lands on either side, it gives you balancing capability. When the wind is strong in Ireland, we can export to France. When it's quiet, we can import back from France, using a combination of renewables and nuclear from the French side."
On the broader significance of this project, Ryan opined: "I think we're at the start of a new industrial revolution. And just as the first one started in Europe, this one will too. It’s an electrification of everything, particularly using renewable power."
He continued: "As the wind comes in from the west, passing over Ireland, we can pick it up at various stages. If we combine that with hydropower from the Scandinavian countries and the Alps, and solar energy from the south, you start to have a balancing capability. This new industrial revolution will be characterised by balancing the variable supply of electricity and variable demand, storing it, and shipping it in different countries. So Europe starts to have an alternative energy supply to Russian gas, Middle Eastern oil and gas, and that's why it's strategically significant."
Speaking of his meeting in Paris with his French counterpart, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Ryan was struck by the parallels between France and Ireland. "We have a lot of the same problems," he said. "How do you get projects through the planning system quicker? How do you make sure that, politically, these projects are not going to be stop-and-start? That they will happen no matter who's in government? And how to avoid being delayed when it comes to the supply chain?"
He went on: "If we can do all three of those; better permitting, clearer political messaging and getting the supply chain right, that takes out the risk in the development of renewable alternatives."
Asked about the jobs that will be valued in what he calls the "electrification of everything", the minister said: "You have to resource the people. The most important shortage is actually getting the engineers we need. If there are young people out there thinking, what will they do with their career, what will they do with their life? Well, if you want to be at the forefront of tackling climate change, if you want to have a job that has real meaning, purpose and status, in my mind, it's in the very technical aspects as to how we shape this electricity future."
Produced by Sophie Samaille, Isabelle Romero and Perrine Desplats