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Minister Naughten Awards €20m in Community Energy Grants


38 community energy projects receive €20 in grant funding through the Better Energy Communities scheme operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, which was announced by Denis Naughten T.D; the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

This year’s funding will provide for energy efficiency upgrades to more than 2,600 homes and almost 300 community and commercial facilities. The total investment in energy efficiency is almost €48 million, supporting more than 700 direct and indirect jobs right across the country.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Naughten said “I firmly believe that people will become more energy efficient not just because it helps to save the world but because it helps them to save money and makes their homes and businesses warmer, healthier and more comfortable. By supporting Community Groups in upgrading our schools, crèches, sports clubs and community halls we can demonstrate to everybody the real and practical benefits of energy efficiency. It also reduces the amount of money we spend on imported fossil fuels and instead ensures that this money supports local employment throughout the country.”

Also speaking at the launch, SEAI Chief Executive Jim Gannon said “As communities mature so too does their ability to identify and secure funds independently, gradually reducing their reliance on government funds. Most encouraging though are the innovative ways homeowners are being helped with funding the upfront works costs. SEAI are trialling and overseeing a range of these including bridging finance mechanisms, pay-as-you-save models, enhanced credit union loan terms, employer finance with some commercial participants investing their savings into community energy funds.”

Some of the notable projects that have been successful in this year’s scheme include:

  • A project with Mayo county council who will use an Energy Service Company (ESCO) model to upgrade the town Hall, firestation and library in Castlebar along with community creches, arts buildings, community buildings, one hotel and one business. The works also include energy retrofits of 43 homes in Charlestown and Castlebar which are owned by the St Vincent de Paul (SVP).
  • A partnership with the HSE which will upgrade the efficiency of twelve local Health Centres, eight daycare buildings, Cherry Orchard Hospital and a risk assessment service in Ballyowen.
  • An energy efficiency upgrade for a homeless shelter for women and children operated by the DePaul charity in Dublin 1.
  • 12 transport companies will enter into an agreement to reduce their fuel spend through driverly of training and the installation of a vehicle management system. The resultant energy credits will be donated to finance energy efficiency upgrades to schools, sports clubs and community buildings.
  • Grants to help make Arranmore Island energy independent by upgrading the housing stock and installing renewable technologies and the use of wind turbines to power community group water scheme in Galway

Geoff Corcoran, Director of Development at Co-operative Housing Ireland, one of the community groups who are benefitting under this year’s scheme, said: “Co-operative Housing Ireland is working hard to respond to the current housing crisis with plans to deliver over 1,500 new homes across Ireland over the years to 2020. At the same time, we remain committed to continued investment in our existing housing stock. The vital support of SEAI through the Better Energy Communities scheme has helped us to upgrade nearly 300 homes so far, with 80 more to be delivered this year. For us, the most valuable contribution of the scheme has been the difference that it makes to the lives of co-operative members, reducing the cost of heating their homes, raising their level of comfort, and supporting them to think about more energy efficient ways of living.”

This year’s Better Energy Communities scheme also makes funding available for the first time for the creation of a national support network for communities who want to get involved and change their energy usage. This Sustainable Energy Community network will offer community groups the expert advice and support that they need to get up and running and will assist those community groups already active to develop larger and more ambitious energy saving projects.

Already 33 community groups have signed up to become a member of the Sustainable Energy Community network and this number grows by the week. A real revolution in the energy sector is coming. With new forms of renewable energy, with new technologies that can put people in control of their own energy usage and by supporting people’s efforts to become more energy efficient, I think that we deliver a transition to a sustainable economy that will be good for the economy, good for the environment and most importantly of all good for the people of Ireland,” concluded Minister Naughten.

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