New South East Energy Agency bids to create Ireland’s first “near-zero emissions” rural zone

The newly expanded South East Energy Agency (formerly 3 Counties Energy Agency) has outlined its ambition to turn the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford into Ireland’s first “near-zero emissions” zone.

New South East Energy Agency bids to create Ireland’s first “near-zero emissions” rural zone

Energy experts with a trusted 20-year track record of delivering low-carbon energy solutions across the South East of Ireland are now bidding to create the country’s first near-zero emissions rural region.

The newly-formed South East Energy Agency is working across Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and now Waterford and its mission is to help the four counties become a further magnet for low-carbon, energy-efficient, and sustainable enterprise.

It all builds on the trojan work completed over two decades by the now-expanded South East Energy Agency, formerly the 3 Counties Energy Agency (3CEA), and its predecessor, the Carlow-Kilkenny Energy Agency.

Over that time, the not-for-profit Energy Agency has been leading the regional and national fight against climate change. Its activities since its foundation have resulted in a CO2 reduction of 71,225 tonnes, saving 328Gwh of total primary energy and an avoided spend of €24 million on energy for its partners, much of which is produced using fossil fuels and over this decade needs to transition to clean energy sources.

Launching the new Agency, Marie Donnelly, Chairperson of the Climate Change Advisory Council and former Director for Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Innovation at the European Commission, said: “One million euro an hour is leaving this country to purchase imported fossil fuel. Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels is a root cause of high energy costs, supply instability as well as high levels of carbon dioxide emissions.

“We must quickly unlock Ireland’s vast renewable energy resources,  increasing our targets for onshore wind,  solar renewable electricity and BioEnergy projects as well as the pace of delivery through improvements to planning, regulatory and connections processes.

“By expediting the delivery of these crucially important indigenous resources we will secure our long – term energy future, protect households and businesses against cost volatility and support our climate change objectives. This will need strong political and policy support at both a national and local level as well as support to local sustainable energy communities.”

Marie Donnelly speaking at the launch of South East Energy Agency. Credit: Dylan Vaughan / South East Energy Agency

The South East Energy Agency’s expansion into Waterford and drive to create a sustainable energy rural zone further demonstrates the newly-formed South East Energy Agency’s mission to create a low carbon, energy efficient region, work in partnership with the community of the transport industry, home owners, local authorities business and farming sector to raise awareness and provide support to those who want to become more energy efficient, CEO, Paddy Phelan, explained. With recent energy security and price shocks impacting all homes, businesses, and communities, we all need to play our part, Mr. Phelan said.

“The analogy I use is that we all find ourselves all meeting at the same narrow gate to find the gate locked. The combination to that gate is complex. Everyone is looking around to see who has the combination code. Government have one number, supply chain has another and finance has another. Infrastructure have the final 2 numbers.

“The South East Energy Agency is here to help to solve the complex combination, open the gate, widen the gate and ensure safe passage through that gate for every citizen in the region. Without that code made available to everyone, we cannot transition smoothly.

“We are supporting energy users in the South East towards a zero carbon future. Ireland didn’t deliver on our 2020 targets. We can’t wait until the oil runs out to make a switch. Our 2030 targets are much stiffer. We have to start accepting responsibility as individuals and understand there is a way, we will get there, but we all need to play our part in our homes, in our communities and in our own back yards.

“The South East Energy Agency team and its members are not just delivering through communities in terms of Energy Efficiency but now also looking ahead, starting to plan for what the next number of decades will need to look like, particularly when it comes to the transition of both Energy Infrastructure and Energy supply at a Regional Level. Through our work we want to partner and facilitate the key stakeholders to ensure that the regional is transitioned and ready to support the now increasing appetite of its citizens to take action,” Mr. Phelan said.

This article was originally published by the South East Energy Agency, accessible here.