What is a Sustainable Energy Community
A Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) is a group of people who have come together to improve how energy is used and develop a sustainable energy system for the benefit of their community.
Energy communities often look at projects in homes, transport and local business. They also look at community buildings such as schools, community centres and sport facilities.
Galway City Council SEC is called Galway Energy in Transition and its goal is to strive for Galway to become a carbon neutral city by 2050.
What are the common goals of a Sustainable Energy Community
Use less energy
Energy efficiency is the cheapest and most straightforward way for a community to become sustainable.
Use clean energy
Switching from fossil fuels to renewables is the next step, where possible. This can be by way of renewable heating systems, changing energy suppliers or generating energy.
Use smart energy
Technology gives us more control over how we heat homes, drive cars, or light buildings. Where suitable, communities can use these technologies to complement their actions.
Benefits of joining the Sustainable Energy Community:
- When you set up on the network you are assigned a mentor free of charge, who is funded by the SEAI. Your mentor can help your community to identify and plan for suitable energy projects.
- Your community will be able to learn about energy technologies and solutions.
- Learning opportunity from other SECs who have common interests or who have conducted local energy projects.
- Members receive a quarterly newsletter with updates, case studies and a list of upcoming events and webinars.
- Opportunity to attend local, regional and national events
- Can apply for funding up to 25K for your Energy Master Plan (EMP) which outlines a register of opportunities for energy saving projects and proposals.
- Further grant funding is available through the SEAI and Local Authorities for identified projects and proposals in conjunction with your Energy Master Plan.
Why does Galway City need Sustainable Energy Communities
SEC’s are seen as an essential part of achieving Ireland Climate targets. SEC’s are working together to become more sustainable in how they use energy through:
- Changing our energy use which creates one of the biggest impacts for sustainability and the environment. Acting together means this impact goes even further.
- We can reduce energy bills in the community by doing local energy projects.
- Community energy projects mean warmer, healthier homes and community buildings. It improves quality of life, especially for the vulnerable in the community.
- These projects can bring the community together and contribute to bigger goals such as Tidy Towns, green tourism, and eco-congregation activities.
Are there existing Sustainable Energy Communities within Galway City
Yes, the full list can be viewed on https://www.seai.ie/community-energy/sustainable-energy-communities/sec-map/index.xml
Galway City Council encourage further establishment of SEC’s within the city to ensure full coverage of the city and to promote collaboration through appropriate networks.
Steps to establishing a Sustainable Energy Community
The SEAI website provides guidance on the Community Pathway to Sustainable Energy at: https://www.seai.ie/community-energy/sustainable-energy-communities/
The initial steps are:
- 1. Get a group together & set up a steering committee
- 2. Register with the SEAI
Once you have your group together join the Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) network by filling in the registration form on the SEAI website
- 3. Talk to your mentor
You will be assigned a mentor who can provide guidance and support. Your mentor can help your community to identify and plan for suitable energy projects. Your group will then be eligible to apply for dedicated funding from the SEAI.
The Sustainable Energy Community Programme
The SEC programme is a three-step journey - Learn-Plan-Do.
Learn: The community joins the SEC Network, where they can learn about community energy and start thinking about what they can do on the ground.
Plan: If the community decides to progress, we will support them in doing an Energy Master Plan.
Do: The community decides on the best energy projects to undertake. Then they can identify grants or supports to help deliver their plan.
Funding options for Sustainable Energy Community
The SEC programme supplies supports such as a mentor, access to a technical panel, and a framework in which to scope and improve your communities’ energy use. The SEC can access SEAI technical supports to help identify a plan, implement a tailored programme of activities for the community, monitor the programme’s progress, and review accordingly.
SEC’s can also apply for dedicated SEAI funding, such as the Better Energy Communities (BEC) funding, to help your group to achieve its SEC ambitions.
Galway City Council has also partnered with SEAI to provide bridge funding for community energy upgrades of up to €25,000 which will be paid up front to the SEC and the Local Authority will re-coup the initial funding costs from SEAI. This Funding allows communities to undertake a baseline assessment of their energy use, carry out energy audits of their homes, community buildings and local businesses, and helps them to identify the most suitable renewable energy solutions for them.
This partnership will provide vital bridge funding to assist communities in achieving their sustainable energy ambitions. By removing the financial barriers of trying to raise initial funding, the communities involved can now focus on leading their projects and developing a sustainable energy plan for their local area.
Once the Energy Master Plan is completed then the community will work with their mentor to identity the next steps to reduce energy consumption and carbon and pinpoint any grants/funds that can assist with this.
For further information and a full list of grants go to https://www.seai.ie/grants/