Sustainable Energy Communities Galvanizing Ireland’s Clean Energy Transition
As Ireland moves forward on a renewable energy pathway, local communities like Batterstown in Co. Meath are uniting to take climate action and make their mark on the world.
- Strategic Partnership formed with Meath County Council
- Energy Mater Plan approved by SEAI
- Community collaboration and connectivity
Batterstown’s Sustainable Energy Community, set up in 2018, was the brainchild of Philip McCormack, a former engineer from Co. Meath. Five members in total make up this group, each with a different skillset, but with one common goal; to make their community a more energy efficient place to live and future proof it for generations to come.
Philip and his team attended various workshops with SEAI, to learn about the process of becoming a sustainable energy community and how to implement positive change in their locality. Workshops are a useful tool for communities in developing skills and knowledge from the onset.
Philip and his neighbours used the specialised expertise of SEAI in their plan to implement a sustainable vision for their community.
“Batterstown Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) will become a leading role in transforming Batterstown into a community that is based on sustainable energy strategies, technologies, and practices, by changing attitudes to develop energy awareness.” Philip McCormack, Batterstown Sustainable Energy Community.
Collaboration with Meath County Council
One of Philip’s main objectives was to collaborate with Meath County Council to drive their vision forward and begin the process of decarbonising their locality. He knew, with the support of their County Council, Batterstown were in a better position to actualise their plan.
The strategic partnership with Meath County Council was formed to facilitate and deliver an Energy Master Plan for the locality. The aim of an Energy Master Plan is to allow a community to understand its’ current and future energy needs in terms of electricity, heat and transport consumption. Meath County Council procured and paid for consultants (subsequently recouped from SEAI), but this arrangement meant that Batterstown did not have to become involved in the logistics of procurement nor raise funds up front to undertake the Energy Master Plan. No one was left out of pocket.
Identifying energy opportunities through an Energy Master Plan
During the Energy Master Plan process, Batterstown analysed their energy use for the first time ever. The Plan allowed for a thorough energy analysis and provided a range of ways that Batterstown could become more sustainable and climate-friendly. It identified measures to reduce energy demand and increase the the use of renewable energy to meet that demand .
Energy Master Plan – desk study phase
Batterstown’s partnership is currently finishing its desk study stage. A desk study provides a community with an understanding of the communities starting point and objectives.Through this research, Batterstown identified that most houses were:
- Built in 1970’s
- Run on an oil burner - an overwhelming majority of houses use oil as a source of home heating
- Typically two cars per household with people commuting two hours a day on average
Use of Home Energy Saving Kit to engage a community
The Home Energy Saving Kit was a useful tool for engaging younger people in Batterstown. Local schools got to see how it worked and some homes in the area used it to identify problem areas in their home and make sense of their energy use. The Kit is available to borrow from libraries across Ireland. Find out more here.
What are the benefits of forming a sustainable energy community?
Forming a sustainable energy community, while energy focussed, has multiple benefits for the community and Meath County Council. The delivery of the project brings climate action and energy to a local level and builds knowledge capacity within the community as well as involving people in the project.
From the council’s perspective it helps them to engage directly with citizens and through the committee helps to build trust in our climate action team and activities. It also is an excellent opportunity to share knowledge.
“Sustainable energy communities are bigger than energy savings. They offer people within communities the chance to be involved in something that can benefit the community collectively. Ultimately they promote inclusivity and healthy and better lifestyles for those involved”. Caroline Corrigan. Climate Action Officer at Meath County Council
How can you start your own Sustainable Energy Community?
Finding the right mix of people for the committee is the crucial first step.The Batterstown committee have members with various skill-sets that add value to the committee. A community’s sustainability journey requires commitment and time so committee members must bear this in mind.
Knowledge sharing is important and citizens beginning this journey should speak to other sustainable energy communities to learn from their experiences. They could become a support network for each other. Visiting homes that have benefited from community grant upgrades is also useful so they can see the final outcome and the comfort factor for homeowners which in some cases is life changing.
There is great satisfaction in seeing projects develop and the level of community engagement and cohesiveness. In some cases, a warmer, more comfortable home can transform lives, by removing fuel poverty, and by improving the quality of life.