The European Union’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) will make its first ever visit to Ireland later this month, it was announced today.
Organised by the Mid West Regional Authority (MWRA) and LIT Tipperary, the fact-finding mission by members of the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy will feature a number of site visits throughout counties Clare and Tipperary on Tuesday, 24 April.
The travelling delegation will visit the offices of North Tipperary County Council before attending a briefing on the LIT Tipperary managed and EU-funded Sustainable Energy for the Rural Village Environment (SERVE) project http://servecommunity.ie/, which aims to develop a sustainable region in North Tipperary. Commission members also will visit Ireland’s first Eco Village in Cloughjordan.
The delegation of politicians from around the EU will later visit Feakle in County Clare for a tour of the Clare Wood Chip fuel producing facility, part of the County Clare Wood Energy Project (CCWEP). The group will conclude their Irish visit by meeting with officials from Clare County Council to view the Local Authority’s biomass boiler at Aras Contae an Chláir in Ennis.
Liam Conneally, Director of the Mid West Regional Authority said the Commission’s decision to visit the Mid West is testament to the Region’s reputation for excellence and expertise in the area of energy efficiency.
The Mid West has a lengthy track record in delivering large-scale sustainable energy projects such as the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Power Station, the Cloughjordan Eco Village and the coal-fired power station at Moneypoint. The MWRA also launched Ireland’s first Regional Climate Change Strategy in 2008.
According to Mr. Conneally: “We work closely with regional development agencies throughout the Mid West to help make the Region become energy independent. Renewables development is particularly important for Ireland, which is nearly 90 per cent dependent on fossil fuels for its energy requirements. This Region has made considerable progress in this area in recent years as evidenced by the SERVE project, the increase in wind farm developments, moves toward tidal power, and the harnessing of biomass for the generation of electricity.”
“The continued development of the Mid West as a region of excellence and expertise in the energy area will bring further opportunities for communities, entrepreneurs and third level graduates. Compared to other regions in Europe, the Mid West is well placed to exploit substantial renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, wood and energy crops,” he added.
Seamus Hoyne, manager of the SERVE Project, said the visit by the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy represented an ideal opportunity for key players within the Mid West Region to showcase completed energy projects along with other planned initiatives.
Mr. Hoyne explained: “With the support of the EU and through the collaborative efforts of the Mid West’s development agencies, the Region has significant potential to become the renewable energy-generating centre of Ireland, once it harnesses all its natural resources. In the long term, this would generate sustainable employment, generate increased incomes for landowners and farmers and significant environmental benefits, as well as reduced energy costs for consumers.”
Ciaran Lynch, Development Manager, LIT Tipperary expressed LIT Tipperary’s happiness at being involved in the visit and explained that the study visit will concentrate on two unique projects in rural parts of Ireland.
“LIT Tipperary is particularly happy to be involved in the organisation of this visit. The Institute has been involved in renewable energy development for many years through itds taught courses and the many projects in which it has been involved.
The first aspect of the visit will focus on the SERVE project, which has already seen 400 buildings receive significant energy upgrades and the development of a eco-village that is 100% supplied by renewable heating system and has the largest solar array (506m2) in Ireland. LIT Tipperary has been the manager of this major project which has been implemented with many partners including North Tipperary County Council, SPIL and the Tipperary Energy Agency”
“The second focus will be on local wood fuel supply systems and approaches to setting up enterprises and companies within regions which can meet local demand. The Clare Wood Energy Project is an integrated project involving Local Development Companies, Local Authorities, Forestry and Agricultural Advisors and Private Individuals. It has resulted in significant investment in biomass heating systems and also the development of a number of local wood fuel supply companies. The model of development is now being rolled out to other regions in Ireland and can be replicated across the EU,” concluded Mr. Lynch.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) represents local and regional government in the EU policy formation and decision-making processes. Members of the Committee of the Regions and its subcommittees carry out study visits in order to acquaint themselves with real-life projects which demonstrate the implementation of EU policy and programmes, in order to inform their future deliberations and the advice they give to the Parliament and other EU institutions.
At the suggestion of the European Federation of Agencies and Regions for Energy and Environment (FEDARENE), with which the Mid-West Region has strong associations through LIT Tipperary and the Tipperary Energy Agency,, it was proposed that a delegation of the Committee of the Regions would be invited to come to the area.