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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Action on energy helps Ireland financially and saves us money

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

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SEAI's Chief executive, Brian Motherway

SUSTAINABLE Energy activity is benefiting Ireland by €1 billion per year as well as enhancing energy security, reducing emissions, and improving people's lives.

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SEAI's Chief executive, Brian Motherway, pictured below, talks about how local communities are taking action to become masters of their own sustainable energy destiny while creating local jobs and saving money in the process.

Every time we use energy to heat our homes, run our cars, power our devices, not only is money leaving our own pockets, but it is leaving our country. We import nearly all the energy we use, and that means we are dependent on others, and our energy use makes their economies richer, not ours. What if we could keep that money in our local communities?

That's exactly what communities all over Ireland are doing right now – taking money that used to leave the country to buy oil and gas, and spending it instead on local jobs and technologies. They are upgrading homes and community buildings so that they waste less heat, they are updating equipment that costs much less to run, and they are making greater use of local, clean energy sources. All of this is saving them and Ireland as a whole, huge amounts of money.

It's not all about money. Making Ireland more energy independent is also part of the solution to our greatest environmental challenge – climate change. When we use less energy, and use cleaner energy, we make a dent on Ireland's emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, an investment in the lives of our children and grandchildren and the world they will inherit from us.

As the world increases its understanding of the science of climate change, the sense of how big the crisis is and how soon it will affect us , just grows. Our recent experience of severe storms reminds us of the devastating impact they can have, and our vulnerability to the weather. Are we ready to bequeath a world to the next generation where such events are more frequent and more severe? All of our discussions about energy - how we use it and where it comes from – have to take place in the shadow of this great environmental threat.

Irish people are taking action. A quarter of a million homes have made use of our financial supports to upgrade their homes and reduce their bills, and we have also helped thousands of businesses do the same. Each time someone acts like this, they benefit and Ireland benefits. It means more local jobs and money staying within the local economy spent on upgrading buildings and services rather than paying for expensive imported fuels. In total, sustainable energy is keeping more than one billion euros in the Irish economy that would otherwise leave the country.

Ireland's great strength is in its local communities, and they are answering the call to take back control of our energy. You will read in these pages about local community organisations, business and public bodies working together to reduce everyone's bills. Whenever I visit these initiatives and meet the people driving these fantastic projects I am always struck by the local pride and spirit that makes them happen. When a community group manages to bring together a range of people to work together to save energy. When a local business decides to spend the money it saves on funding upgrades local sport clubs and community buildings. When a community hall that used be almost too cold to use is now warm and cosy all year round. These are the real stories of what Irish communities are achieving.

The local stories you will read about here are just a few examples of what is possible when local people are willing to take on the challenge and achieve lasting benefits for the community. It is a great privilege for me and my colleagues to be able to help these communities achieve these dreams. For any community looking to take up this baton, we in SEAI can provide advice and support, and often funding too. Contact us to find out more by email at communities@seai.ie.

We all have a choice about Ireland's future. We need energy to live our lives. Do we want it to be expensive and harmful to the environment? Do we want to be dependent on others for our needs? Led by local communities taking action for themselves we can create a new energy for Ireland.

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