A major step towards creating a single Sustainable Energy Strategy for the Mid-West took place when senior public sector personnel from the region and beyond participated in a workshop at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) campus in Thurles.
The event focusing on encouraging reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions and increased usage of renewable energy in public buildings was held as part of a 3-year EU INTERREG IVC project which is being implemented locally by the Mid-West Regional Authority (MWRA)
The STEP project, short for ‘Improving Communities’ Sustainable Energy Policy Tools’, will see the MWRA updating its existing Regional Biomass Strategy and the Regional Climate Change Strategy to combine them into one Sustainable Energy Strategy for the Region.
Public sector bodies represented at the workshop included the HSE, Tipperary Energy Agency, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Midlands Energy Agency, Institute of Technology Tralee, Irish Prison Service and local authorities from all over Ireland. Entitled ‘Energy Management in Public Bodies: Strategic Solutions to Resourcing Energy Management’, the event featured speakers on a range of topics including Purchasing Energy Services; Successful progress and effective ESCO’s (Energy Supply Contract); and Financing Retrofit. The workshop concluded with a site visit to a Biomass Boiler at Thurles LIT.
Cllr Oliver Garry, cathaoirleach of the MWRA said the high level of participation in the workshop will help guide renewable energy development and good practice in the Mid-West.
He added: “Resourcing an energy management program is a key challenge in the public sector. This workshop focused on obligations of local authorities and provided strategic solutions to resourcing energy management through a series of presentations from other public sector organisations who have overcome this challenge. The support of the public sector is key to our objective of establishing a single Sustainable Energy Strategy for the Region.”
Liam Conneally, director of the MWRA explained that securing the support of public sector bodies for the objectives of STEP is central to the overall success of the project.
He added: “In recent years we have seen numerous energy and climate change related strategies developed at a local level and our role as a project partner is to combine them into one Sustainable Energy Strategy.”
“The recent workshop highlighted the challenges faced by the public sector in implementing local and regional policies to meet the EU’s “20-20-20” targets for energy. The challenges include cutting CO2 emissions by 20pc, ensuring 20pc of energy consumption comes from renewable sources, and driving a 20pc reduction in energy use. It is clear from the workshops that public sector agencies are keen to work together to reach these targets and our role is to coordinate and strengthen this collaborative approach,” Mr Conneally stated.
Commenting on the European wide approach of the STEP project, Mr Conneally said: “The MWRA is engaging on an ongoing basis with our EU regional partners to learn about their best practices in local sustainable energy projects. Particularly advantageous to us has been the opportunity to learn from the Finnish and German partners who are very advanced in the development of local sustainable energy projects. In the remaining 18 months of the project, we will be focusing on the areas of local Sustainable Energy Action Plans for rural areas and looking at innovative financing options for boosting local sustainable energy investments.”
The MWRA is amongst 9 partner agencies from 6 European countries involved in the STEP project, which runs until December 2014 and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The other partners include “STRIA” South Transdanubian Regional Innovation Agency Non-for-profit Ltd (Hungary); Kainuun Etu Ltd (Finland); Saxon Energy Agency (Germany); the Energy Management Agency from Murcia (Spain); the Environmental Development Company from Aragon (Spain); Arleg S.S. Regional Development Agency (Poland); Midland Regional Authority (Ireland) and the Local Government of Mohács (Hungary).
For further information on STEP, please contact Majella O’Brien, EU Project Officer with the Mid-West Regional Authority (Tel: 067-33197, Email: email@example.com).