Ireland now imports over 90% of its energy and is heavily, and increasingly, reliant upon imported fossil fuels. The Western Region can make a significant contribution to the national target of the 12% renewable share in the heat sector by 2020. The region has abundant natural resources so has huge potential for the development of the renewable energy sector – including wind, wood and ocean energy.

The WDC has been particularly involved in developing wood energy and in assisting community development in renewable energy, and has been involved in three EU funded projects (RASLRES, BioPAD and ROKWOOD) working to assist in the development and promotion of bioenergy in the Western Region. Bioenergy brings local jobs, benefits local businesses, helps local economies and replaces imported fuels so it provides important opportunities for rural and remote areas.

The WDC is working with a number of local authorities in the region by assisting in the progression of plans to develop district heating systems.  This is done through business models which will seek to access low interest EU loan funding and become a model for growth in both the renewable energy and construction sectors in the near to medium term.

As a result of the RASLRES and BioPAD projects, a number of needs were identified around the areas of developing renewable energy businesses and supporting micro business and SMEs in this sector.  A project concept called ‘Generating Renewable Energy Business Enterprise (GREBE)’ was developed.  GREBE will focus on the challenges of peripheral and arctic regions as places for doing business and help develop renewable energy (RE) business opportunities provided by extreme conditions. It will support successful development of SMEs and start-ups in this sector through analysis of advanced RE options, expert business mentoring, transnational models of successful growth strategies, policy analysis and information on funding mechanisms for businesses and support agencies.  The budget for this is €1.77 million over three years, commencing 1st September 2015.  The project is funded by the Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme (http://www.interreg-npa.eu/).

(RE-DIRECT)  Regional Development and Integration of unused biomass wastes as Resources for Circular products and economic Transformation’

The RE-DIRECT Project is a North West Europe co-funded project to promote the efficient use of natural resources and materials by converting residual biomass into carbon products and activated carbon at smart regional decentralised units and has a total budget of €5.4 million. It is being implemented by eleven partner organisations based in Ireland, UK, Germany, France and Belgium. The WDC is a state agency promoting economic and social development in the Western Region.

RE-DIRECT aims to set up decentralised conversion units to convert residual biomass into activated carbon that will be used for clearing regional waste water. Not only will the project benefit global climate, but will also contribute to eliminating hazardous micro-pollutants from pharmaceutical substances.

Based on the proven technology named Integrated Generation of Solid Fuel and Biogas from Biomass (IFBB) RE-DIRECT will develop a novel technology chain to transform residual biomass into energy and activated carbon.

Further information on the project can be found on the website http://re-direct-nwe.eu/

LECo – Local Energy Communities

‘Community based energy solutions for remote areas’ (LECo) Project is a new Northern Periphery & Arctic Programme co-funded project that will support the development of local energy communities and has a total budget of €1.95 million. It is being implemented by eight partner organisations based in Ireland, Finland, Norway and Germany and Sweden.

The LECo project shall respond on the needs of remote communes and settlements for a sustainable energy supply. The goal is to com­bine new innovative technologies with locally available natural resources (wind, hydro, solar and biomass, including waste from house­holds, agriculture and industries), based on the model of local cycle economy.

The project will bring together the combined experience, knowledge and expertise of the project partners and provide conditions for creation of energy self-sufficient Local Energy Communities (LECo). The central European “Energy Village” concept will be adapted for the Northern Periphery & Arctic project partner regions. Existing cases of Energy Villages inside and outside the NPA area will be analyzed in form of documented cases and shall deliver guidance about success factors and pitfalls for Energy Villages.