Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Group insulation schemes can jumpstart your local economy!

Gearoid Fitzgibbon writes

Investing in home insulation and energy efficiency gives a better return than most other sorts of investments: it saves the householder money, it gives work to local contractors, it circulates money back into the local economy, and, from a national perspective, reduces our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and lowers our carbon emissions. 

It also counters fuel poverty, which affects 16 % of households (according to a 2001 survey), a figure that will have only increased since the recession.
Where once the case was made for such investment from a “green” perspective, it can now be proven from a purely financial point of view. Communities and community groups around the country are hungry for actions to boost the stagnant local economy.

With 20% of our energy consumed by households, communities and community groups are primed to play a huge role in transforming the energy profile of Ireland. Already a diverse number of communities have begun this work:
- Clonakilty in West Cork has set up “Sustainable Clonakilty” (,
- Dundalk Sustainable Energy Zone (an EU Commission funded project to showcase innovative technologies, policies and practices needed to develop sustainable energy communities), as well as Ballynagran, Co. Wicklow and Kinsale, Co. Cork.
- The Drombane\Upperchurch Community Energy Survey is another example, and shows the potential for engagement of local communities in these initiatives.
Community based energy conservation projects have a number of key ingredients, which can be replicated.

  1. Research phase: collecting data to create a profile of your community’s energy use and insulation levels; using advice and support from local agencies (academic institutions and local development companies can help here).
  2. Action Phase: putting in place the resources to carry out the conservation work – (price reductions may be negotiated with energy insulation companies where groups of houses are clustered together).
In the current climate, finance for the required investment is an obstacle. Ireland does however have a network of community owned co-operative finance organisations – the local credit unions. 

The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, and POBAL should match the appetite for self-help of community groups by instructing LDCs to prioritise energy conservation work. It offers a guaranteed return.

To read Gearoid's article about the branding of local development companies, click here.

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