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Guinness parent unveils €200m investment plan for carbon neutral brewery

Guinness parent, Diageo, is to invest €200 million in Ireland’s first purpose-built carbon-neutral brewery at a greenfield site in Newbridge, Co Kildare.

The facility at Littleconnell will brew all its lagers and ales including Rockshore, Harp, Hop House 13, Smithwick’s, Kilkenny and Carlsberg. When fully operational with a capacity of two million hectolitres, it will be the second largest brewing operation in Ireland after St James’s Gate in Dublin.

It will be powered with 100 per cent renewable energy and will harness the latest process technology to minimise overall energy and water consumption. This will enable the brewery to avoid up to 15,000 metric tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

As the production of lagers and ales is transferred to the new facility, St James’s Gate will increase the production of Guinness to meet global demand and to scale up the use of renewables technology.

Diageo is to submit a planning application to Kildare Co Council in September and, if successful, plans to commence brewing in 2024 following a construction period of approximately two years.

‘Great news’

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar said the Diageo investment was “really great news for the future development of Ireland’s thriving food and drink industry, and also for the wider national economy”.

“It’s also extremely positive for Newbridge and the local economy in Kildare, with up to 1,000 jobs being created during the construction of the site and 50 once built … Industry has a role to play and I’m really pleased to see Diageo taking the lead and investing in this carbon-neutral brewery, which I’m sure will be a leading example for others.”

Colin O’Brien of Diageo, category head of global beer supply, said the group’s plans for a brewery in Kildare, and developments at St James’s Gate, would enable growth in overall beer exports from Ireland in a sustainable way.

“We are fully committed to embedding sustainability across our business … by becoming carbon neutral in our direct operations.”

The new facility will contribute to Ireland’s critical economic and climate policy goals, such as supporting the transition to a low carbon economy while also increasing both food and drink production and associated jobs, he believed.

The Newbridge facility will initially use wood-chip boilers and switch to renewable electricity through contracts with external suppliers, said Mr O’Brien, while St James’s Gate will use biogas if it becomes available in the quantities needed or electric boilers.

Diageo’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 was on schedule, he said, while decarbonising its scope 3 supply chain emissions (emissions that result from assets it does not control directly) was most challenging — it has committed to reducing associated greenhouse gas by 50 per cent.

Efforts to reduce packaging, including glass, aluminium cans and kegs, and to decarbonise furnaces were progressing well — as was its pilot project with tillage farmers embracing regenerative farming. This approach seeks to work in harmony with the natural environment by putting back more than it takes out and is increasingly regarded as an effective way of minimising environmental damage associated with food production, especially in reducing emissions.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Leo Clancy said the Diageo move was an endorsement of the Irish food and drink ecosystem. “We look forward to continuing to partner with them as they embark on this ambitious project … The new facility will make an important contribution to the local economy, supporting value added exports, creating high-quality jobs, and doing so in line with the highest sustainable standards.”

IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan welcomed the proposed development. “This planned investment demonstrates Diageo’s continued commitment to sustainability, which is also a key pillar of IDA Ireland’s current strategy Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth 2021 — 2024,” he added.

Kevin O’Sullivan © Irish Times 2022