European Commission earmarks West Cork island for clean energy strategy

A West Cork island which was a global leader in clean energy over 30 years ago was today selected for a European Commission-backed energy transition initiative to make offshore communities more self-reliant.

Cape Clear, already planning to introduce electric buses this summer, was one of 26 locations – out of the EU’s 2,200 inhabited islands – earmarked as torchbearers in the clean energy process.

Mairtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Comharchumann Chléire Teoranta, welcomed the announcement by the Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat.

“It’s very important for us that this project has an EU aspect to it,” he said, noting the Commission’s initiative was aimed at kick-starting an energy transition process to support islands in becoming more self-reliable, prosperous and sustainable.

He also said the initiative will tie in with the National Transport Authority’s green public transport strategy. Currently, Cape Clear has a Local Link rural transport scheme and, through it, the NTA is hoping as a pilot scheme to introduce two electric buses which are scheduled to come into operation in the summer ahead.

The island, with a resident population of just under 150 and more than double that during the summer, is 13 kilometres off Baltimore. The NTA is hoping to test the electric buses on the island’s near-14kms hilly roads network.

Meanwhile, Mr Ó Méalóid said along with the Irish Islands Federation, the cooperative on Cape Clear has for a number of years been pressing for and encouraging the formation of a project with the European Commission. The Aran Islands are included in a first phase project with Cape Clear yesterday announced for a second phase, effective from 2020.

The co-op manager recalled, in 1987, Cape Clear had been a world leader in wind energy when then taoiseach Charles Haughey and the German Minister for Technology Heinz Riesenhuber officially launched two new wind power generators in a German government-financed €500,000 project.

“The windmills’ project fizzled out in the 1990s due to a lack of continued funding,” said Mr Ó Méalóid, “but we are hoping to erect new windmill heads on the towers and, with the support of the Commission’s secretariat, make the island as energy efficient as possible.”

Dominique Ristori, director-general for Energy at the European Commission, said the objective of the Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat was to help as many islands as possible embark on, and advance, their clean energy transition in a way that includes the whole island and its stakeholders.

“The islands selected have displayed a remarkable potential and enthusiasm for developing strong and lasting multi-stakeholder collaborations around the clean energy transition,” he said, “and by embarking on this path, they become inspiring examples for other islands.”

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