Monday, December 12, 2011

Tipp parish targets energy waste to spur rural economy


North Tipperary Energy Presentation

By Allen Meagher
 
An energy audit by community volunteers and development workers has found that a parish in County Tipperary spent over €1million last year to heat and power its 400 households

Thirty homes in the area had no insulation whatsoever while others were poorly insulated and were difficult, not to mind expensive, to heat. Much of the housing stock in the area dates back to before 1920.

 “Cutting energy use by 25% would be the equivalent of a €250,000 investment. What are the chances of a company investing that much in a small local area in the current climate?” asked local development worker Gearóid Fitzgibbon.

His company North Tipperary LEADER Partnership and the self-styled Drombane Energy Team, hopes the local community (pop. 1000) see the savings to be made and invest in retrofitting and insulating their homes. If so, locals will get the work and phase 2 of the project will be off the ground. The unique audit, available online (on.fb.me/drombanenrg) raised awareness about the existence of grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Nine in every ten households in the rural district were informed they qualified for grant assistance for energy improvements: 82% for partial grants, 13% for the full Warmer Homes Scheme Grant. The house-to-house survey was carried out by teams of volunteers from Drombane/Upperchurch using a mapping system designed by the local GAA club.

The combined voluntary efforts were equal to employing a full time community worker for eight months. There was a very high response rate of 87% (350 out of 400 homes) and the finished report was launched in Drombane in October by SEAI boss Professor Owen Lewis. According to local organiser Con Harrington: “Small communities like ours must take a self-help approach, and not wait on state initiatives. Local people know what is best for their locality. If they take the first steps, state agencies will come on stream.”

One of the key partners on the project, Seamus Hoyne, manager of Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA) said: “In the current climate, money spent on conserving energy offers one of the best returns on investment because you make long-term savings.”

Mr Fitzgibbon (also chairperson of Changing Ireland Community Media Ltd) has worked with others on the project for nearly two years: “This project began with the question ‘What can we do to get something going in our community?’ In an age of energy scarcity and financial instability, it’s inspiring to see a community working to come up with its own answers.

This survey has given us the data from which to launch Phase 2 of the Project – getting local people to invest and draw down grants, and getting the work done.”

The official launch in Drombane Hall came with a half-day information and advice clinic where staff from TEA gave householders confidential feedback one-to-one on their individual surveys. They also got a chance to discuss options with certified energy and retrofit companies.

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