Green Skibbereen – a new beginning?

The Skibbereen Climate Action group met for the first time at the West Cork Hotel on November 20. Organised by Jim O’Donnell and Noel Casserley, the purpose of the meeting was to bring interested people together from across the local community and business to discuss how Skibbereen can become a centre of excellence for action on climate change and renewable energy. 

Jim O’Donnell, of O’Donnell Furniture, opened and introduced the event highlighting the need for everyone to act and pay their part in relation to the climate emergency. Jim talked about how his grandchildren were a driver in making him want to do more, but he also outlined the practical advantages that would accrue to building owners and occupiers through lower energy costs.  

Alicia O’Sullivan, from Skibbereen Community School and Ireland’s representative at the 2019 United Nations Youth Climate Action Summit, spoke about the urgent need for Governments and people to take action to address the climate emergency. She spoke about the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable communities in the global context and highlighted how countries like the Marshall Islands are extremely vulnerable and will be devastated by the effects of climate change.

Noel Casserly, of SmartEarth Consultants, highlighted the key role of civil society and young people in mobilising public opinion for climate action. 

“There is now a greater awareness and understanding of the issues and the science is less contested than it used to be,” said Noel. “Skibbereen can play its part if the community comes together to take action on renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

John Flynn, SEAI, and Xavier Dubuisson, XD Sustainable Energy, presented an overview of two Sustainable Energy Authority Programmes – the Sustainable Energy Communities Programme (SEC) and the Better Energy Communities Programme (BEC). Between 2012 and 2019, 18,000 homes and 2500 non-domestic projects have been completed with a total project spend of €370M. Total grants amounted to €145M and energy savings were 600GWh.

Paddy Rose, Advanced Heating and Energy Systems Ltd., presented in practical terms how solar PV works, and took questions on design, installation and costings. 

Caitriona Courtney presented on the work of NCE Energy Hub and the co-ordination of community energy projects. Today NCE is one of the largest community-based organisations delivering energy saving measures to homes and businesses across Ireland. 

“Skibbereen has such a strong sense of community, “ said Catriona after the meeting. “I was delighted to see so many people here tonight interested in finding out about the opportunities that exist for sustainable energy projects in the area.

“NCE Energy Hub can assist the community to prepare an application for funding under the SEAI’s 2020 Community Energy Grant which can include homeowners, businesses and community buildings/ not for profits. This grant covers energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy technology. The deadline for applying as a group is January 31 so if anyone is interested in getting involved they would need to get in contact with us soon. If the application is successful we can coordinate the project working in partnership with the steering group.”

Jose Ospina presented on wider European networks and access to EU funding, as well as highlighting several EU funded programmes in which the Carbery Housing Association (CHA) is a participant. 

“CHA have been involved in the setting up of this group since its inception by Noel and Jim earlier this year. “Jose said. “We want to highlight the potential benefits of getting involved in EU projects and networks. The meeting was a great success and we were delighted to have been a part of it. Hopefully actions will come out of it and Skibbereen can move forward on its journey to a greener future in 2020.”

The meeting ended with a general discussion about how best to take the project forward. 

“A local group will be established,” Noel told West Cork People. “This could act as a Sustainable Energy Community to drive the project forward. The timeframe for making an application under SEAI’s BEC programme is quite short and the group will work to identify interested participants as a priority.”

We look forward to more developments on this exciting project for Skibbereen.

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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