Service users of ARC Healthy Living Centre in Irvinestown benefit from energy efficiency measures

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ARC Healthy Living Centre is a not-for-profit community organisation, governed by a voluntary board of directors and working across one of the most rural parts of the UK. Each week they support families, young people and adults to learn new skills, improve their health and well-being, find employment and develop confidence to achieve their goals and transform their lives. ARC has a long established ethos of inclusion and positive expectation. 

The ARC Healthy Living Centre are delivering needs based services to vulnerable people and are constantly struggling to meet their running costs. They need to maintain constant temperatures in their buildings to suit their service users, primarily babies and young children in the new build and adults with long term conditions in the original build.

Recognising that they had to manage their heat demand into the future, in late 2014 they chose to move to a biomass system, as a long term outcome to reduce their costs and reduce their carbon footprint. The move to renewable energy was based on more than financial assumptions. Their commitment to protecting the environment and to move away from harmful fossil fuels was of key importance. Wood fuel is a ‘low carbon’ fuel that produces a fraction of the emissions of fossil fuels. The critical difference between biomass fuels and fossil fuels is the type of carbon emitted: biomass fuel releases contemporary carbon, whereas fossil fuel releases fossilized carbon. In addition to the environmental reasons, they were a hostage to fluctuating oil prices.  As with most households and businesses locally when oil prices were high they were subject to oil theft.

In February 2015 they went out to tender for suitable installers and in June 2015 had the new system fitted and commissioned. The installation of the biomass boiler was prompted by the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  The RHI aimed to encourage organisations to generate heat from renewable technologies. The RHI pays participants of the scheme for generating renewable heat and using it in their buildings and processes. Proving that the ARC met the requirements of the RHI was based on the establishment of facts and evidence, eligible heat output has to be determined and verified. On 31st August 2015 they obtained RHI accreditation.

The RHI on their new system will not cover installation costs for many years. Used ethically and correctly this system does not generate huge financial gains. The buildings have heat management systems and climate controls so therefore cannot be over heated. With the new system they have in fact reduced the heat demand, continued, maintained underfloor heating run from the biomass system has avoided the continual rationing and subsequent boosting that rendered the previous oil system so inefficient, and supplementary heaters are now seldom required. They have welcomed the media and public interest in this story, and ARC is happy to comply with any additional inspection or monitoring that is introduced as a result of the current publicity in around the RHI scheme.

The ARC Healthy Living Centre remains committed to supporting rural people experiencing fuel poverty and is working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in the design of a road map for innovation within the energy sector.  The development of such community energy schemes could lead to: a reduction in fuel poverty, the development of a secure and affordable energy supply for those who may be deemed as vulnerable, improved energy efficiency and ultimately improved physical and social well-being of rural communities.

Bioenergy 2017: The Irish Bioenergy Association hosts the National Bioenergy Conference

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A strong attendance list of 190 were present at the annual IrBEA Bioenergy Conference in Dublin on Thursday 9th February.

The programme featured four sessions, the first session focused on policy where Fergus Leamy, CEO of Coillte, the leading forestry, land owning, renewable energy and panel products business in Ireland, provided high-level insights on how we in Ireland can optimize our bioenergy potential. Matthew Clancy, Programme Manager for Low-Carbon Technologies at the SEAI talked about the detailed outlook and challenges for bioenergy in Ireland.

The timing of this conference was particularly appropriate in light of the final consultation on the Government’s proposed introduction of a renewable heat incentive (RHI). This very welcome development can be the key to unlocking the potential of bioenergy in Ireland. Getting to our renewable energy and climate change targets, generating energy from indigenous resources, reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and promoting jobs and economic activity across the entire country, are just some of the benefits.

Reflecting the importance of this challenge we had a session on the RHI consultation delivered by Tom Bruton in the mid-morning sessions. Key speakers and advisors were present at the conference, and the attendees were given the opportunity to partake in a Q&A session to drum up ideas for a response to the consultation. IrBEA will submit a consultation response in mid-March.

After lunch, Session 3 concentrated on Project Finance. Garrett Monaghan of Arthur Cox covered the area of executing and financing biomass projects. He confirmed that capital is available for biomass projects but stressed the importance of planning, having experts on hand, and using funders as allies to help you get the job done. Garrett also looked at RHI implementation and addressed some of the current issues. Russell Smyth (KPMG) walked us through many projects scenarios which are up and running in the AD and W-E sector; commenting that there was a robust equity investment appetite for the sector.

Franceso Panzeri of Demetra gave the history of engineering and designing the ADBag. The solution is a modular system based on a prefabricated plastic bag, which is easy to be installed and maintained. Frank Donnelly of Northway Mushrooms detailed hands-on experiences of his farming business and how his dependence on different renewable energy supplies including biomass boilers and large solar panel investment has helped keep his business viable in changing economic times.

Further information about the Irish Bioenergy Association can be found on their website: http://www.irbea.org/

The IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference – Thursday 9th February 2017

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‘Bioenergy 2017’ – The IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference will be held at the Castleknock Hotel, Dublin on Thursday 9th February.

2017 looks to be a pivotal year for Ireland’s energy policy; the industry expects clarity by then for the roll-out of a Renewable Heat Incentive.  It’s imperative that the Irish Government develops an energy policy that allows for greater growth in the bioenergy sector. This will be under discussion at the conference.

The conference will have a strong line up of speakers, both international and national, presenting industry models, policy perspectives and investment opportunities to stimulate lively discussion and strong media coverage.

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More on what will be discussed at the event can be found on the IrBEA website: http://www.irbea.org/bioenergy-2017-irbea-national-bioenergy-conference/

Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA)

Action Renewables launched Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA) in April 2016.  AREA is the catalyst for transition to a renewable future, and is the sole body representing the entire renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland across all technologies.

Following the re-election of the Conservative Government in May 2015, a series of damaging policy changes, financial restrictions and ongoing budget issues has sent Northern Irelands renewable energy sector into rapid decline.  With the removal of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) along with cuts to Northern Irelands Renewable Obligation (NIRO), it is clear the newly formed Department for Economy (DfE) will have great difficulty financing and implementing replacement incentives post 2017.  The reduction and withdrawal of renewable energy subsidies along with the general lack of support for the renewables sector has placed Northern Ireland’s renewable energy sector in jeopardy.

Action Renewables has responded to this threat with AREA, as a means to support the renewables sector via focused lobbying activities.  Our core aims are to establish a secure renewable energy policy framework in light of the increasing policy vacuum; to protect existing renewable energy investments and support the development of the renewable energy sector.  AREA wants to organise the renewables sector, establish a collective voice and use it to influence policy.

For more information please click here.