Pictured above: L-R: Brian Mc Swiney, Sustainable Clonakilty, Cllr. Cionnaith O Súilleabháin and Dr. Brian Motherway, CEO, SEAI. Pic: Seamie Gallagher
Clonakilty is making strong inroads towards becoming a sustainable energy community according to Brian Motherway, CEO of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who was visiting the area on Friday October 9 to see first-hand its multiple building energy upgrades which are nearing completion.
Sustainable Clonakilty, the voluntary organisation driving the low-carbon vision for the environs of Clonakilty, hosted an event highlighting the benefits to the local community from the projects being completed in local homes, buildings and facilities. While 30 communities around Ireland have received funding from the Better Energy Communities Programme, Clonakilty was one of only nine chosen for a showcase tour. The town is a finalist in the community category of the SEAI Sustainable Energy Awards 2015.
The retrofit projects, funded by the Better Energy Communities scheme, are being coordinated by Sustainable Clonakilty along with local partners the Chamber of Commerce, Tidy Towns and Cork County and Town Councils. Works being carried out include energy efficiency upgrades to a wide variety of public and private buildings such as the rugby clubhouse, Richy’s Cafe & Bistro, Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens as well as upgrades to the first rural community bicycle scheme in Ireland. One innovative project will demonstrate the pay-as-you save financing model for the installation of air-source heat pumps in community-owned facilities.
Sustainable Clonakilty Director, Ray Lucey explained the significance of the grant for Clonakilty: “The grant support we received will potentially result in an investment of up to €120,000 in the town for sustainable energy projects. This will reduce costs for businesses and community groups, create employment and of course reduce our town’s carbon footprint. It really is a great news story for Clonakilty.”
Clonakilty Mayor Cionnaith Ó Súilleabháin is a founding member of Sustainable Clonakilty and remembers an inspirational visit in 2006 to Güssing in Austria, the first community in the EU to produce its whole energy demand – electricity, heating/cooling, fuels – out of renewable resources from within the region. “Güssing was once one of the poorest towns in Austria, with no local industry and young people leaving in their droves. The local mayor instigated a scheme to become a self-sustaining town and create employment at the same time. He looked at the natural assets available, the vast forests, and saw that waste from the forestry industry could be turned into wood pellets. The town developed a district heating system that is community owned; it’s essentially a factory producing heat from pellets. Similar to our water scheme, heat is piped into homes with homeowners metered for what they use. Local farmers then switched to growing biofuels, which power all the local cars. Hundreds of jobs were created and Güssing has since developed into an important location for industries with high-energy consumption. Our group was very much inspired by this and has used Güssing as a template for what we could achieve here.”
Brian Motherway, speaking on the collaborative nature of the project said: “Collaboration is the future of energy retrofitting in Ireland, with the benefits felt right across the communities. It is encouraging to see communities like Clonakilty taking positive action to improve the efficiency and comfort of our buildings, create local employment and reduce our reliance on expensive imported fossil fuel.”
John Randels, Head of Delivery for SEAI, was also part of the delegation visiting Clonakilty. He is urging other West Cork communities to avail of funding under the Better Energy Communities Programme, which is returning in 2016. Communities can consist of towns, villages or even groups of farmers and businesses. Communities are helped through the application process and there are opportunities to speak to other communities who have benefitted from the scheme.
Further information on Better Energy Communities is available at www.seai.ie