From 24-25 June 2019, the EU Islands Secretariat and the Aran Islands Energy Cooperative co-hosted a capacity-building workshop. Set on the beautiful island of Árainn, the workshop fostered the collaboration between members of the local community, businesses from both the islands and the mainland, as well as representatives of the Irish government.
Latest developments in Ireland and the EU
Following an introduction to the Energy Coop’s activities by Dara Molloy and Avril Sharkey, Ruth Buggie of the Sustainable Energy Agency Ireland presented the Irish government’s recently published Renewable Electricity Support Scheme as well as its brand new Climate Action Plan 2019, highlighting the opportunities it harbours for citizen and renewable energy communities in the country.
The role of local stakeholders in the clean energy transition
Local stakeholders were at the heart of the workshop. Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth Ireland highlighted inspiring examples of local communities taking initiative and driving their own clean energy transition, both in Ireland and all of Europe. The impact of local stakeholders was further illustrated through the example from Cape Clear, another Irish island that has been pushing forward its own clean energy transition for many years, and which is also one of the EU Island Secretariat’s pioneering islands. Máirtin Ó Méalóid from Cape Clear in his presentation highlighted the importance of tackling water treatment and supply on islands during the transition.
Technologies to serve the islands
Building on Ó Méalóid’s intervention, Joe Murtagh of the company SeaPower Ltd presented their progress on a technology that uses wave power to convert sea water into drinking water during the workshop. Highlighting the cost and emissions linked to importing water to the islands, Murtagh clearly explained the benefits of such a technology for islands. The technology is currently still in its development stage, and is expected to reach maturity within the next few years, dependent on financing.
As wind energy was identified as one of the key assets for the Aran Islands to fully decarbonise in their Energy Master Plan, David Cregg of Enercon presented wind energy projects that have been carried out on other EU islands with similar geographical conditions as the Aran Islands, and showed simulations of how wind energy could be implemented in the archipelago. The presentation was followed by a highly animated Q&A.
The EU Islands Secretariat also presented its activities and support offer to the workshop participants.
Diving into the Aran Islands’ clean energy transition agenda
The second day of the workshop was devoted to advancing the development of the Aran Islands’ clean energy transition agenda. Following a brief introduction to the concept of the Clean Energy Transition Agenda by the Secretariat and an overview by the Energy Cooperative about what has happened in this field so far in the community.
Moving into the working groups, the Energy Cooperative emphasized the importance of involving the local community in the decision-making process, stating that any clean energy project the coop implements will go ahead only if they have the support of the island community.
Starting from a broad visioning exercise, the working groups honed in particularly on the benefits and challenges of implementing a wind turbine project on the island, and how to tackle the permitting process, as this has so far been one of the main challenges to advancing this project. The conclusions from these discussions will feed into the island’s Clean Energy Transition Agenda currently under development, and submitted for consultation by the island inhabitants in the coming weeks.
We thank all participants for their active contribution to the workshop, and look forward to continuing the work with the residents of the Aran Islands!