The inaugural public event of the Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community which took place last Thursday night (11th November 2021) in the Annebrook House Hotel heard from a range of experts about how tackling climate change can be good for business.
Over 30 attendees ventured out into the wind and rain to attend the highly successful and enjoyable event which shared practical tips for businesses about how to reduce their energy costs and cut their carbon emissions at the same time. Paul O’Reilly, Director at Watt Footprint, facilitated the event and introduced six speakers who shared insights and solutions on how businesses can save money and also do the right thing for our environment.
The first speaker was Dr. Isabella Donnelly, Senior Energy and Environmental Engineer at SEAI and a founding member of the Mullingar Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC) who outlined the work of the Mullingar SEC, including a planned energy audit of the entire town.
The consultants currently carrying out the audit, Plan Energy, were represented at the meeting by Ray McNally, who explained how the audit will provide valuable insights into how Mullingar can become more energy efficient over the coming years.
The next speaker was Brian Collentine, Director and Chartered Energy Consultant at ORS, and also a founding member of the Mullingar SEC, who shared his expertise and experience with the businesses present on the practical steps that they can take to reduce their energy costs. In particular, he highlighted the need to move beyond energy efficiency and into the decarbonisation of our energy systems if we are to truly see the benefits to both the environment and to business.
Westmeath County Council was represented at the meeting by Jonathan Deane, Head of Environment, who provided a fascinating insight into the challenges that the Council is facing in implementing the requirements of the new Climate Action Act 2021 and the steps they are taking to meet those challenges head-on. He reported that under the Government’s Climate Action Plan which was published earlier this month, Local Authorities are required to achieve 50% energy efficiency targets, including targets to transition from fossil fuel heating systems by the end of 2023. The meeting also learned that currently over one third of the Council’s total energy usage goes on public lighting.
Declan Barrett, Founder & CCO of Urban Volt, provided the meeting with an upbeat and optimistic vision of the future which his company is helping to achieve. Urban Volt installs solar panels on the roofs of large businesses, with no capital outlay for the business, who only pay for the energy that they use. They also retrofit industrial buildings with high efficiency LED lights and the business just pays a monthly service fee. Mr. Barrett’s presentation prompted one member of the audience to state that ‘it all seems too good to be true!’ But true it is, according to Mr. Barrett, who provided facts and figures to support his claims and he has many very large and well known companies as clients who are availing of Urban Volt’s services.
The final speaker of the evening was John O’Connell, Partner at Stephens Cooke & Associates based in Mullingar, who provided an entertaining, practical, no-nonsense insight into the nuts and bolts of financing the transition to a greener future for businesses. He outlined the various tax incentives and financial supports that are available to help businesses to become more energy efficient and how they can access them.
Speaking after the event, Cllr. Hazel Smyth, a founding member of the Mullingar SEC, said: “This event has shown the interest that exists among Mullingar businesses in reducing their energy costs and driving progress towards a low-carbon economy. Our wonderful speakers tonight have clearly demonstrated that the solutions to climate change are within our reach and those solutions are also good for business – it’s a win-win scenario”.
Following the presentations, a number of businesses signed up for a free Energy Audit, made possible with funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Further free Energy Audits are available for businesses in Mullingar and the surrounding areas so if you’d like to avail of one, you should send an email to [email protected].
Background notes :
Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community was formed in 2018, supported by the Mullingar Chamber of Commerce, with the objective of encouraging the local community to become more energy efficient and to source renewable energy where possible. The Mullingar SEC is embarking upon two significant projects over the coming years. The network of Sustainable Energy Communities, supported by SEAI, is growing in County Westmeath, and includes the Columb Barracks SEC (also in Mullingar), Castlepollard SEC, and others which have demonstrated significant and widespread community interest in the utilisation of local natural resources in a sustainable way.
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