The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) hosted its third annual National Sustainable Energy Community Event on Saturday last in Athlone Institute of Technology bringing together leaders and sustainable energy advocates from communities across Ireland who committed to changing how their community thinks about and uses energy.
Over 200 communities are members of SEAI’s community network. These communities are working towards a common goal to become more energy efficient, use renewables where possible and explore smart energy technologies. The network has almost doubled in size in a year, as citizens and communities take the lead in reducing energy use in their towns and villages.
In 2018, thanks to €22 million Government funding from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, SEAI is supporting communities in the upgrade of over 1100 homes and 420 community buildings and business premises across Ireland.
Speaking at the event Jim Gannon, CEO of SEAI, said, "These communities are at the forefront of Ireland’s clean energy transition. The SEAI community network builds knowledge and confidence in communities across the country, putting the power firmly in their hands. SEAI provides mentoring and funding to help communities with sustainable energy projects. Communities see the benefits of their efforts through lower energy bills, more comfortable buildings, a boost in local employment, as well as helping the environment.
"The huge growth in the network is down to communities deciding that they want to control their own transition to a lower carbon future – at SEAI, we are committed to growing and supporting the network to match the ambition of Ireland’s communities."
Across the country, communities are taking climate action into their own hands while improving their locality. One such community is the North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community. Seamus Dunbar, an artist living in Manorhamilton, is a founding member of the group.
Discussing the reasons why he initiated local action he says, "With climate change, there is a pressing need to look at our energy use in communities across Ireland. We must become more aware of the consequences of our actions and take steps to hold onto to the things we hold precious, like the natural environment, on which we depend.
"In North Leitrim, we have begun a dialogue to find ways of reducing our footprint and take responsibility for our own energy needs. This is something any community can practice. I would encourage others to see what they can do to bring people in their locality together to tackle these important issues."
Community leaders in the North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community are working with SEAI to develop a long-term energy plan for the area and training workshops for homeowners interested in small scale hydro, wind and solar energy generation. The SEAI has created a short video about the North Leitrim community which can be seen here.
To find out more about the community energy initiatives and how to join the SEAI communities network visit www.seai.ie.