The Claremorris and Western District Co-op is generating power that can be sold back to Irish communities.
“IF WE DON’T change our ways, the next generation and the generation after will be the ones who pay for it.”
It’s been six years since JP Prendergast and a group of locals from Claremorris, Co Mayo came together to found the Claremorris and Western District Energy Co-Op. The main aim of the co-op was, and is, to support renewable energy projects in the community.
Small-scale projects like installing solar panels on the roof of the local school and retrofitting local buildings have had a hugely positive impact, but over time the Co-op has become more ambitious.
With the formation of Community Power, Ireland’s first community-owned renewable electricity supplier, the Co-op is taking a new approach to tackling the climate crisis, showing how communities can become energy-independent and ultimately free from fossil fuels.
Claremorris and its Community Power project is one of seven communities being supported to date under the government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The scheme helps communities to produce their own power and share in the ownership of Ireland’s energy revolution, while inspiring others to follow.
The Co-op’s latest development is the creation of a solar farm on an old landfill site near the town, a real example of a brown-to-green project. Here, many multiple square metres of solar panels are laid on the ground to generate electricity for the town. JP sees huge potential for these kinds of locally-led projects in the journey to tackling climate change:
“If you want change, you have to bring the community along with you. I believe that it’s not just the fairest way, but the fastest way to implement renewable energy projects because you have the support of people locally, and they can see the benefits for themselves.”
Last week, the government published its Climate Action Plan, which includes ambitious action on the development of renewable energy, including further supports for community projects such as that in Claremorris.
Cutting transport emissions significantly and retrofitting up to 500,000 homes by 2030 are just some of the other measures the government pledges to take over the next ten years to tackle what has become the biggest challenge of this generation.
Speaking at the launch of the plan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan said that communities are at the heart of Ireland’s energy revolution, and urged people to come together and embrace opportunities in their own locality:
“Communities will be able to retain all the benefits that are associated with generating their own electricity. These benefits can provide a secure long-term financial boost to the community at large and allow reinvestment into securing the community’s long-term future.”
He called tackling climate change the “defining challenge of our time,” adding:
Imagine the Ireland we can create if we go about things in a cleaner, more sustainable way.
To hear how one community is playing its part in creating a cleaner, greener future for all, watch the video above. And for more information on the Climate Action Plan and Ireland’s roadmap to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, click here.
Nov 5th 2021, 12:29 PM – The Journal Newspaper