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community development / jobs COMMENTARY

Wexford scheme has warmed 2,500 homes & created jobs

By Allen Meagher


round ten Local Development Companies (LDCs) are delivering the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme around the country along with 20 other community-based organisations. In Wexford, it’s been such a success that Wexford Local Development (WLD) were invited to showcase their work at an OECD/Pobal conference held in Dublin in October to examine local responses to long-term unemployment. They’ve made winters warmer for 2,500 households, created a half-dozen fulltime jobs and train 25 people at a time (formerly long-term unemployed) in a jobs growth area. If you qualify for the fuel allowance, own your own home and it was built before 2002, you qualify for WLD’s retrofitting scheme. The Warm Project surveys a home to see what energy efficiency measures are needed and can then step in with attic insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught proofing of doors and windows, installs lagging jackets, low energy light bulbs and provides energy advice to the householders. Brian Kehoe, CEO of WLD, explained to people who visited his exhibition stand at the OECD/Pobal conference that nobody is displaced by the work since it delivers warmer homes to people who could not afford to pay for it themselves. “A lot of the people who apply are elderly, long-term unemployed, or have disabilities, exactly the kind of people we want to support.” “If one person gets it done, a neighbour is likely to give us a call. And local social welfare offices help in getting the word out too,” he said. A study some years earlier found many people, particularly elderly, suffered health problems due to draughty and damp houses. This Warm Project addresses the issue. All participants on the project receive FETAC accredited training in “Installing Thermal Insulation” and also receive training in Health & Safety, Manual Handling, Safe Pass etc., and also received industry recognised training in cavity wall insulation. Notwithstanding budget cuts, WLD would “embrace” the opportunity to up-skill its workforce and get them working on the installation of solar panels, renewable energy heating systems, rain water harvesting systems and external wall insulation. The scheme is managed by WLD, working in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, FÁS and other partners such as the ESB. Funding from SEAI for 2011 was approximately €520,000. The Warm Project is an important part of WLD’s labour market strategy under the LCDP.

Pictured above: Brian Kehoe, CEO of WLD, talking to ‘Changing Ireland’ editor Allen Meagher at the OECD conference. Credit: Derek Speirs.


Group insulation schemes can jumpstart your local economy!


nvesting in home insulation and energy efficiency gives a better return than most other sorts of investments: it saves the householder money, it gives work to local contractors, it circulates money back into the local economy, and, from a national perspective, reduces our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and lowers our carbon emissions. It also counters fuel poverty, which affects 16 % of households (according to a 2001 survey), a figure that will have only increased since the recession. Gearoid Fitzgibbon Where once the case was made for such investment from a “green” perspective, it can now be proven from a purely financial point of view. Communities and community groups around the country are hungry for actions to boost the stagnant local economy. With 20% of our energy consumed by households, communities and community groups are primed to play a huge role in transforming the energy profile of Ireland. Already a diverse number of communities have begun this work: - Clonakilty in West Cork has set up “Sustainable Clonakilty”, - Dundalk Sustainable Energy Zone (an EU Commission funded project to showcase innovative technologies, policies and practices needed to develop sustainable energy communities), as well as Ballynagran, Co. Wicklow and Kinsale, Co. Cork. - The Drombane\Upperchurch Community Energy Survey is another example, and shows the potential for engagement of local communities in these initiatives. Community based energy conservation projects have a number of key ingredients, which can be replicated. Research phase: collecting data to create a profile of your community’s energy use and insulation levels; using advice and support from local agencies (academic institutions and local development companies can help here). Action Phase: putting in place the resources to carry out the conservation work – (price reductions may be negotiated with energy insulation companies where groups of houses are clustered together). In the current climate, finance for the required investment is an obstacle. Ireland does however have a network of community owned cooperative finance organisations – the local credit unions. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, and POBAL should match the appetite for selfhelp of community groups by instructing LDCs to prioritise energy conservation work. It offers a guaranteed return.

VOLUNTEER… because of concern for the client group



Hot in issue 37: Insulating Communities, MEN in childcare, ENERGY JOBS, FEATURES from Cork, Ballymun, Mayo & Arklow, INTERVIEWS with Declan...


Hot in issue 37: Insulating Communities, MEN in childcare, ENERGY JOBS, FEATURES from Cork, Ballymun, Mayo & Arklow, INTERVIEWS with Declan...