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/).