Community energy vision launched
WITH the COP 21 talks underway in Paris and future policy on climate control front and centre of world-wide political debate, a Community Energy Proclamation was launched in Ireland recently.
The vision of the proclamation is for a transition to a clean, secure energy system for the citizens of Ireland, where communities - whether organised as co-operatives, voluntary associations or individual citizens - can get involved in energy planning, conservation, energy generation and energy distribution.
The idea for the proclamation came out of a conference on energy co-ops organised by Cloughjordan-based NGO, Cultivate.
Signed by over 100 community groups, co-operatives, energy agencies and NGOs, the proclamation calls for a number of policy changes to allow communities to participate in Ireland's energy generation and to allow the community energy industry to develop.
These include setting a target for community energy in Ireland and removing a number of technical and financial barriers such as access to the grid, payments for solar energy for micro-generation and for renewable heat, and support and advice structures to enable community groups to develop renewable energy projects.
The initiative is supported by Duncan Stewart, Environmentalist, Broadcaster and chairman of the judging panel of the local newspapers' Get Involved initiative.
Speaking to this newspaper, Duncan said; 'One of the areas that Get Involved focuses on is local energy. There is massive potential for communities across Ireland to produce a portion of their own energy needs and reduce their carbon footprint.
'To reach our national climate and renewable energy targets communities need to be empowered to install energy efficiency measures and insulation retrofits to buildings, and harness local renewable sources. The transition to a clean energy future will not happen without the power of the people.'
In contrast to many of our European neighbours, community-owned renewable energy in Ireland is practically non-existent. A fundamental shift in policy is required that views citizens and communities as indispensable agents in securing our energy future, not obstacles to be negotiated. The Community Energy Proclamation recognises communities as active participants in the clean energy transition, and as one of the best way to unlock the renewable energy potential in Ireland.
Davie Philip, the Cloughjordan based mentor of the Get Involved contest said: 'Every time we pay our energy bills, millions of euros pour out of our communities that could have stayed there creating jobs and energy security. A community will be more resilient and be better able to reduce its carbon footprint if it can contribute to the generation of the energy it needs.'