I congratulate SEI for organising this Energy Show. I know that it is a biannual event but it strikes me that if it wasn't due this year SEI would probably have had to organise it anyway because of the speed of change in this sector lately.
The year has already kicked off with the Government's Renewable Energy Package. The forthcoming Energy Policy Green paper will set an ambitious policy agenda for energy over the medium to longer term - with Sustainable Energy as the key over-riding theme.
Sustainable energy has increasingly taken centre stage in economic, environmental and energy policies. We are all aware of the critical factors which are driving us towards a more sustainable energy economy.
Sustainable energy is at the heart of the Government agenda for energy. We are meeting the challenge to deliver on the sustainability agenda through a range of initiatives and policy actions in the short to medium term.
Ireland, in addition to taking national policy initiatives, is working in Europe to ensure that EU energy policy fully reflects on a shared sustainable energy agenda which gives priority to renewable energy, energy efficiency and research and innovation.
The degree of change required at national level will require active cooperation between Government, industry, Departments and Agencies as well as the research communities.
We need to ensure that Ireland's ambitions in terms of sustainability are best positioned to realise the opportunities and benefits from developments in Europe, including research funding opportunities.
Sustainable Energy is a collective agenda - for EU Member States and for players on the national stage. Industry as well as consumers, researchers as well as policy makers, have a vested interest and clear responsibilities in creating a sustainable energy future for Ireland.
The Energy Show 2006 is therefore a timely and important showcase. It brings together suppliers and customers of proven as well as new technologies and services. This is a forum for information exchange, debate - and above all for serious business.
It highlights very vividly the potential for companies active in the Irish Energy sector, as product suppliers or service providers, to create an energy industry which is a player in its own right.
We should be radical and ambitious in terms of seizing opportunities for Ireland to become leading edge in key energy technologies - whether first, second or third generation technologies. Ocean Technology is a case in point.
Ireland has one of the most promising ocean energy resources in Europe. Two weeks ago, in Galway, I launched a new ocean energy strategy, which has been developed by Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) and the Marine Institute. I congratulate both agencies for the foresight and their proactive partnership in developing this strategy.
As the first stages in implementing this strategy, we have recently upgraded the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Center in UCC as well as opening an ocean energy test site a mile and a half off the coast of Spiddal, Co Galway.
This 37-hectare site will be open to test prototype ocean energy devices. The first wave energy device, 'WaveBob' has been deployed on the Spiddal site. SEI and the Marine Institute are also currently supporting a number of other ocean energy devices as part of their R, D & D programmes.
Ocean energy technology will require sustained R&D and technical breakthrough but I am confident that Ireland, with Government support can lead the way in becoming a world centre of excellence in ocean energy.
Energy efficiency and related technologies and applications are obviously pivotal to the Energy Show.
I am giving high priority to energy efficiency strategies as a key national imperative - right across industry, SMEs, agriculture, transport, the construction sector, the public sector as well as individual consumers.
SEI have been vigorously promoting and advising on energy efficiency through a range of programmes over the last number of years. Those programmes have paid dividends but we need to do even more.
The Government are now putting an even stronger emphasis on energy efficiency which is the most economically efficient means over the short term of delivering sustainability. SEI has a key role to play in delivering on this national priority.
Energy efficiency means ever better exploitation of available energy. Reducing the high percentage of wasted energy use is a crucial part of the global, EU and Irish energy challenge
I support wholeheartedly the EU Commission's priority agenda on energy efficiency as articulated in the recent Green Paper and as reflected in the existing and new Directives. Key to reducing overall energy demand is the adoption of energy efficiency measures across all sectors of the economy.
This will in part be achieved through the recently adopted Directive on Energy Services which sets an indicative target to reduce energy consumption by 1% per annum from 2008.
I intend for Ireland to do better than that. The downstream benefits for the Irish energy industry are clear in terms of applications and products which will deliver more efficient energy use. My job working with Ministerial colleagues is to create the demand by setting the bar high in terms of national energy efficiency goals.
Your job is to meet and service that demand by being innovative, commercially focused and highly proactive.
In September I intend to launch a major national energy efficiency campaign to persuade all consumers of the benefits of prudent efficient use of energy.
This multi-annual campaign will aim to change behaviours to reduce waste, use more energy-efficient equipment and processes and use energy more wisely. I fully expect the energy sector to play its part in delivering real results from this major campaign.
When I launched the "Greener Homes Initiative" in March I did so in full confidence that not only would we be satisfying customer demand but also that the Irish energy supply side would rise to the challenge with alacrity. Looking at the take-up to date, my confidence was well-placed.
I look forward to working with you all in the collective enterprise which is Ireland's Energy Future.