Over 120 Communities Nationwide Working on Long-term Energy Plans With SEAI
124 communities across Ireland are now part of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s (SEAI) Sustainable Energy Communities network, a rapidly expanding national movement towards a cleaner energy future. The communities have committed to developing long-term energy plans with the assistance of SEAI. The network has doubled in size in 2017, as momentum gathers in the move to more sustainable energy systems. SEAI and the network members met at the recent Sustainable Energy Communities conference in Athlone.
The communities heard from energy experts and peers about the different approaches and challenges in progressing their sustainable energy plans. The network members influence a collective energy spend of approximately €500 million and are already benefiting from lower energy bills, more comfortable buildings, a boost in local employment, as well as helping the environment.
Commenting on the significant commitment from communities, Jim Gannon, CEO of SEAI, said: “It is encouraging to see more and more communities join what is now truly a national movement. These communities are at the forefront of Ireland’s clean energy transition. The next phase of our energy transition simply will not happen without citizens and communities taking the lead. Our Sustainable Energy Community network builds knowledge and confidence in communities across the country, putting the power firmly in the hands of communities by providing them with the support to lower their energy use and avail of local renewable energy sources. With €28 million in support funding available for community energy projects in 2018, mobilized communities with good projects will be able to deliver significant impact next year to benefit their locality”
Commenting, Denis Naughten, T.D. Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, reiterated Ireland’s commitment to decarbonisation: “I want to help communities to become more ambitious in the projects they are putting together and I want them to be the vanguard in Ireland’s transition away from fossil fuels. If a community group can provide the local knowledge, time and people to help create a sustainable energy community, I will ensure that SEAI provide the mentoring, funding and expert technical advice that will be needed to turn ambition into action.”
Some excellent examples of how this works in practice can be seen in communities across the country. In Louth, 150 buildings were upgraded, including 143 homes, a GAA club, a soccer club and a local community office. Led by Dunleer Community Development Board, the works, which were supported by SEAI, included installing more efficient heating systems and insulation upgrades. The upgrades have made a significant difference to the comfort and efficiency of homes and community buildings, helping people to save money. Dunleer Community Development Board also developed an interactive education programme, showing homeowners the simple steps they can take in their homes to lower energy use and help tackle climate change.
In Shankill in County Dublin, another community has come together to promote local, community-based sustainable energy solutions. They are working with householders to change behaviour in the home by lending Home Energy Kits which have tools, such as a thermal leak detector to check for draughts and identify areas for additional insulation and a plug-in energy monitor to understand how much energy the appliances in the home use and calculate their running cost. In their six short months of operation, they have already worked with over 30 local families to change behaviour and attitudes, organised a community energy clinic and more than doubled their membership. They have developed a programme of activities to extend their reach, including accessing technical and commercial support to assist householders, businesses and community groups in the area to avail of energy efficiency works.
Further details on the Sustainable Energy Communities Network can be found at https://www.seai.ie/sustainable-solutions/community-projects/.
Pictured are Julie O’ Neill, Chairperson of SEAI; Justin Kilcullen, Shankill Action for Green Earth; and Declan Meally, Head of Department Energizing Sector SEAI.