Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Retrofit the country and we’ll save €3billion annually

- Tipperary communities have proven it can work (and creates work).
By Allan Stewart.*

The country pays out €6 billion annually for fossil fuel imports, yet communities in Co. Tipperary are uniquely demonstrating how we could halve that bill and create employment:
When active members of Drombane and Upperchurch in North Tipperary got together in 2011 to discuss economic solutions for their community, they considered many ideas - from wind farms to a local ski slope. After further meetings and talks with the Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA) and North Tipperary Leader Partnership (NTLP) they decided on a community retrofit scheme. This would convert many of the homes in the area to high energy performance homes that were warmer, save on household bills, while creating work in the locality.
Con Harrington, Michelle Putti, Michael Bell, Marcella Maher, Martin O'Donohue
Community Insulation Team
A local 'Energy Team' was formed to co-ordinate a cluster of home-owners, apply for grants from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and select contractors for the work. Completely new to the idea, it took many meetings and support from the local development company, NTLP, to get up and running and to get enough locals interested.
And it’s worked!
Last year, 22 homes were upgraded and this year 35 more homes and two community halls will be retrofitted. Currently, the 400 households in Drombane and Upperchurch spend €1,000,000 on home energy and once the whole community is retrofitted, the energy team expects it will save householders a total of over €250,000 per year (25%).

Now that a locally-run model is up and running, NTLP seek to spread the word and repeat the work, focusing initially on two communities (Lorrha and Kilcommon).**
Drombane Voluntary Housing Residents :
Tony Quinn, Jim Nolan, and Ned Hennessey 
As Drombane/Upperchurch Energy Team member Martin O'Donoghue put it at a recent presentation in Lorrha, “A year down the line, ye'll be wondering why ye didn't start this sooner.”
According to local community worker Gearóid Fitzgibbon, “The projects demonstrate the employment and financial benefits of local insulation schemes. Imagine these savings and jobs multiplied out to every community in Ireland.”
He said that if other communities were to follow the lead shown by Drombane/Upperchurch and if we were to all change our energy use habits, then communities around Ireland “could cut their energy bills in half.”
Under the SEAI Better Energy Communities Scheme, communities can even sell the energy savings they achieve. Drombane/Upperchurch Energy Team has agreed a deal with Electric Ireland for 2013. This local ‘eco-money’ will be used for further energy projects in the community, with the overall aim of becoming more energy independent.
The Celtic Tiger is dead, but Ireland's communities still have the opportunity to build the foundations for a leading green economy.
For more info, email: gfitzgibbon@ntlp.ie or allandstewart@gmail.com
Note: By increasing awareness of energy usage, households can save over 30% on their energy bills, eg by turning the television off fully, having showers instead of baths, and hanging clothes on the line instead of tumble-drying. More info: www.energyneighbourhoods.eu/en_ie
* * Allan Stewart was on work placement with NTLP from the Rural Development and Natural Resource Masters Programme at Uppsala University, Sweden.
** Lorrha and Kilcommon communities were identified for support in NTLP’s LCDP 2011 strategic plan.

Seven Steps to Retrofit Heaven
1. Communicate and convene.
2. Find suitably skilled Energy Co-ordinator
3. Form a local energy cluster.
4. Assess homes.
5. Secure funding for homes.
6. Co-ordinate contractors.
7. Oversee work to completion

100% energy grants available to communities
The Better Energy Communities Scheme run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland offers 35% to 100% grants to home-owners who opt into a community retrofit scheme. Community owned building and businesses are also eligible (50% grants).
If your community sets up a scheme, it will:
- cut waiting time for grants,
- allow for better quality assurance,
- reduce costs,
- create an SEAI-funded job for the co-ordinator of your project.

Further information
www.changingireland.ie (for earlier coverage)

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