Denis Naughten T.D. Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment announced today (Sunday, April 30th) that grant funding of €26 million has been approved for 44 community energy projects across Ireland. The projects were successful in their applications under this year's round of the Better Energy Communities (BEC) scheme administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
This year's funding will provide for energy efficiency upgrades to more than 2,013 homes, of which 1,510 are energy poor, and a further 479 community, public and commercial facilities. The projects include a wide range of upgrades to fabric (insulation), heating systems, lighting and solar heating. The total investment in energy efficiency is almost €67 million, supporting more than 1,000 jobs in the construction sector right across the country.
Over 350,000 people across Ireland have improved the energy efficiency in their homes through Government grants. Last week I announced a new €5 million euro scheme for householders to financially assist them in deep retrofitting their homes to an 'A' BER rating. Works supported by these programmes create jobs and support the local economy. Community based organisations are now training people to become experts in installing energy efficiency technologies and carry out energy efficient improvements to houses. Some of these are re-entering the workforce after long periods of unemployment. The skills they learn will be in ever-greater demand in the coming years and providing education, training and upskilling will ensure that the workforce keeps up with this demand. But we need more householders and communities to take ownership of their energy usage. We need to upgrade every low-performing building in Ireland in order to achieve our goal of decarbonising the energy system and the economy.
Minister Denis Naughten: "Over 350,000 people across Ireland have improved the energy efficiency in their homes through Government grants and specifically 300 community energy projects have received funding and support over the past five years, resulting in 15,000 homes and hundreds of community, private and public buildings improving their energy efficiency. Engaging with communities is the best way to convince people of the benefits of energy efficiency and to support them in making the buildings they use in their daily lives more comfortable, healthier and cheaper to heat and light. Energy and Climate Action are inextricably linked. Using less energy, and using it more efficiently, is the most cost effective and accessible way for us all to take action on climate change. This month I announced a new €5 million euro scheme for householders to financially assist them in deep retrofitting their homes to an 'A' BER rating. Works supported by my Department's energy efficiency programmes also create jobs and support the local economy. Community based organisations are now training people to become experts in installing energy efficiency technologies and carry out energy efficient improvements to houses. There is now much more grounds for optimism about the potential economic opportunities of climate change, or more specifically, the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient, economy. By doing this people will become more involved in the energy transition within their own communities and see the difference that moving away from fossil fuels can have on their lives and in their communities," concluded Minister Denis Naughten.
Jim Gannon, CEO of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland said: "Building community activity is essential to our low carbon transition. This programme and our Sustainable Energy Communities network, which now has over 60 members, provide a growing number of communities with support, advice and confidence, alongside grant aid, to determine their own pathway to a lower carbon future. We must continue to grow these competencies as work in parallel to find more effective ways of funding energy efficiency and low carbon technologies."
Some of the projects that have been successful in this year's scheme include:
- Energy Communities Tipperary Cooperative (ECTC) and beyond seek to extend and continue its endeavour to reduce CO2 emissions throughout Tipperary and neighbouring counties by retrofitting 95 homes and 4 Community buildings. ECTC's projects are based in communities in Tipperary and adjoining counties.
- Arranmore Island Donegal is part of a 5 Year Sustainable Community Development Plan. It is a partnership with Arranmore Island Energy Committee and SE Systems, experienced in delivering similar projects to Island Communities. The project is based primarily in Arranmore, a Gaeltacht that lies three miles off the Donegal Coast on the Northwest corner of Ireland. The application also includes Community partners with the broader mainland Donegal population. The project forms part of the Arranmore Energy Plan 2012-2032, a long-term vision for Sustainable Development on the Island.
- Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community: This project is a collaboration of newly formed Sustainable Energy Communities (SECs) in the North West region. HSE Estates North West (Sligo SEC member) is acting as Lead Applicant, and working with North Leitrim SEC and Mohill Community Development Association (Mohill SEC) to deliver a pilot scale BEC project in Co. Leitrim. The pilot scale has been chosen to reduce project risk, financing, and to allow the SECs to learn from the process and to use the project as a demonstration platform to their wider communities. The objective will be to publicise and showcase this pilot scale project in order to develop more comprehensive and inclusive community energy projects in future BEC and SEC initiatives.
This year's BEC scheme also made funding available for the first time for combined fabric upgrades in homes. This means that homes undertake to improve the energy efficiency of their home before moving on to install renewable heating solutions. Deep retrofit is a focus of SEAI's work in 2017.