SEAI hosted its fourth annual National Sustainable Energy Community Event on Saturday 22nd June 2019 in Athlone Institute of Technology. Sustainable energy advocates from across Ireland attended the event.
300 communities right across Ireland are members of SEAI’s community network. These communities are working towards a common goal. It is to become more energy efficient, use renewables where possible and explore smart energy technologies. The network has grown very rapidly. Citizens and communities are taking the lead in reducing energy use in their towns and villages, lowering their climate impact. SEAI provides mentoring and funding to help communities in their mission. Many have completed energy upgrades in homes, businesses, and public and community buildings.
The communities working with SEAI are key players in Ireland’s clean energy transition. The Government’s Climate Action Plan emphasises the role of communities in our energy future. It sets a target for 1,500 sustainable energy communities by 2030. We welcome this ambition, and we are fully committed to supporting every community that joins us. The SEAI community network builds knowledge and confidence in communities across the country, putting the power firmly in their hands. Communities see the benefits of their efforts through lower energy bills. Also through more comfortable buildings, a boost in local employment, as well as helping the environment.
Søren Hermansen, from Samsø in Denmark, addressed community representatives at the event. Samsø is an island of 3,800 inhabitants, known for its potatoes, strawberries and pig farms. It is today 100% self-sufficient through renewable energy. In 1997 most of its power came from fossil fuels. They began developing their renewable resources when they won a government competition to become a renewable energy community. They are now exporting excess wind-powered electricity to the rest of Denmark. For his innovative work, Søren was named one of the “Heroes of the Environment” by Time Magazine.
The current energy system is reaching its limits. It is becoming apparent that it needs to change towards a system that uses renewable sources of energy. What we learned in Samsø is that change can come from the ground up. We live in a small community and it was important for us to share ownership. We have become a self-sufficient thriving rural community. I am inspired to meet the Irish communities. They are looking to transform their communities and prepare for a new energy future.