AN AMBITIOUS project to boost the production and use of renewable energy is being pioneered by the Clooney Spancilhill Community Development Association. The group is one of three in Clare to enter a partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) with a view to creating an energy masterplan for the area. The blueprint will also offer potential to generate revenue for the area and will draw inspiration from a highly successful community of Templederry, outside Nenagh, who are now raising €1.1m annual for their locality.
“We set up a steering group on the environment,” outlined Tom Larkin, Chairperson of the association. “That lead us to applying to the SEAI for funding. We succeeded in securing €10,000 and that involves us signing a three-year agreement with SEAI. We have mentoring from SEAI and Clare Local Development Company (CLDC).”
After a tender process, the Tipperary Energy Agency was chosen and a contract signed before Christmas for the creation of a Community Energy Plan.
“As part of developing the plan, we’ve just posted a survey online for householders in Clooney, Spancilhill and Maghera,” Tom said. “It can be completed online or paper copies can be gotten from Clooney Stores. The survey will give us an idea of where we are and an overall picture of energy use in the area. It will facilitate recommendations on how the area can become more energy efficient and self-sufficient, and it also allows us to follow up with homeowners who want to find out more about the costs and grants available for home energy upgrades.
“After the survey stage, the next step will be to invite people to take part in a detailed energy audit process. Tipperary Energy Agency will be looking to create a mix of different home types to audit and the process will be free for those who are selected. Anyone who completes the survey could win a free audit. It’s normally €700 for a house, €1,845 for a school or business and €2,400 for a farm. Eventually we will have a report and will be working for the next two-and-a-half years with SEAI to leverage funding for a variety of works and projects.”
One of the sources of inspiration for the work of the Development Association is the Templederry Community Energy Supply which supports a range of community activity. The project is country’s first community-owned electricity supplier. “They got a grid connection, something which we in Clooney-Spancilhill are in a good position to do because we’re so close to the substation in Ennis and they’re now raising revenue for the community,” Tom noted.
The association is keenly aware of the bigger picture in terms of renewable energy. “If you look at our fuel mix in Ireland today,” Tom outlined, “you’ll see a big reliance on gas and coal. Brexit will reduce our access to gas from Europe and coal-burning power plants like Moneypoint are being phased out. There is a huge need to develop sources of renewable energy and now that energy policy is developing, it’s a very good time for us to look at how we as a community can get involved. The Community Energy Plan will provide opportunities, if people want to develop something like a solar energy farm and we would like any landowners who would have sites of 20 acres or so to contact us. Tipperary Energy Agency will then examine the suitability of those lands. Previously, it was all about the big boys generating energy, but now, there is potential for microgeneration by individual homes and businesses, whereby they can generate and sell energy into the grid, as well as community generation.”
The Community Energy Plan has a target completion date of June 21 and will provide the roadmap for homeowners, communities, and private sector organisations to apply for Better Energy Community (BEC) funding. The SEAI funds up to 50% of community retrofits, up to 30% for business and 80% for fuel-poor households.
“There’s an 82% increase in capital funding for residential and community retrofit programmes in 2021,” Tom also highlighted. “In 2021 over one million smart meters will be installed in premises throughout Ireland, allowing homeowners, communities and businesses to sell electricity back into the grid. It’s a very good time to be thinking of community renewable energy.”
More information is available from Clooneyspancilhill.ie and by searching Clooney-Spancilhill Community Development on Facebook. The association can also be contacted on ClooneySpancilhillCDG@gmail.com.