A recent initiative from the Sustainable Energy Authority Of Ireland (SEAI) aims to harness the power of grassroots activism and neighbourly support to reduce energy use in communities.
The Sustainable Energy Communities scheme is aimed at community groups and encourages residents to band together and benefit from extra help to get usage down in their homes and in communal properties.
The scheme has been in place for the last two years and has seen a massive increase in the last year.
Glounthaune in co Cork and Valentia Island in Co Kerry are the first two communities in the south-west to get their Energy Master Plans over the line.
Conor O’Brien, who acts as a mentor for communities in the south-west, says the scheme is worth pursuing by householders purely for the extra individual benefits.
“With assistance from the SEAI, homes can be project-managed together, if householders agree,” he says.
“Someone will come along, generally at no cost to [the homeowner], to look at their individual house and give them a listing of what needs to be done with a price.
“Then if they agree to do a,b,c, then that will cost x and they get a grant of y. It will be project-managed through the SEC system. The main benefit is you will be dealing with SEAI-approved installers.”
He refutes the occasional criticism that this means higher costs.
For insulation, there are grants available for amounts ranging from €400 up to €6,000, with the lowest amount for insulating an attic with a scale of jobs up to the highest amount for insulating a detached house.
There are also grants available for heating control upgrades, installation of solar panels and much more.
In addition to houseowners, the community can also benefit from an SEC.
“The aim is to act as a catalyst for energy-saving activity, fixing up the housing stock and educating more people about the practical advantages of renewable energy,” says Mr O’Brien.
The work and projects are not limited to private houses, projects can also be undertaken involving communal buildings like sportsgrounds and community centres.
The SEAI provides the funding but the community group drives the creation of an Energy Master Plan for their area, followed by the actual work.
Mr O’Brien believes the success of the scheme rests on getting the right people on board.
“The people who get involved have been community activists in the sense that they are really interested in the environment and they want to do something practical,” he says.
“If you go on the SEAI website there is a very easy introduction, and it shows how cost free it is. A small group in a community can fill out this form and they then join the SEC network,” says Mr O’Brien.
“They will get a mentor, who will call them up, explain the steps along the way, which they can also see online.
"They will get 100% cost for the costs of the Energy Master Plan but there are steps that the group must work through to qualify.
“The SEC network also has access to regular webinars and quarterly meet-ups, to advice communities and enable them to learn from each other. The groups will get to know an awful lot more about energy.”
Saving the planet and reducing bills all at the same time - find out more at www.seai.ie/sec.
The Glounthaune plan will be launched at an Energy Day on February 9 at the Elm Tree from 11am to 3pm. The day will also feature information stands on home grants, professional installers and will have a number of electric cars available on the day for test drives.
Regular air passengers should check out the new joint offering from Bank of Ireland and Aer Lingus.
They have teamed up for a new Aer Credit Card, which they say offers all the convenience of a regular credit card but comes with unique travel rewards for customers.
We've teamed up with @bankofireland to bring you Aer Credit Card. Turn your credit card spend into amazing travel rewards.— Aer Lingus (@AerLingus) January 28, 2019
Each year, customers who sign up to the card will receive: two free return fares to Europe two fast-track and priority boarding passes; two lounge passes, and Worldwide Multitrip Family Travel Insurance, including winter sports.
Customers can collect 1 Avios for every €1 spent on Aer Lingus products and services and 1 Avios for every €4 spent on all other transactions.
Bank of Ireland also allows customers to spread larger credit card payments over €500 at a rate of 6.9% APR.
It suggests the payment plan option is an ideal way to budget for a holiday as it offers a lower than usual rate with payments spread over 12 months.
If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at email@example.com