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New initiative to turn Ireland’s smartest sustainable ideas into commercial reality

Sustainable Nation Ireland has launched the €1 million “2o Platform” to support the growth of sustainable businesses by turning the smartest low-carbon ideas and products into commercial reality.

The body promoting Ireland as a hub for sustainable business has established this platform for companies developing resource-efficiency solutions to help them achieve this goal of situating Ireland as a centre for sustainable innovation and investment.

Sustainable Nation collaborates with Europe’s Climate-KIC and Sustainability Skillnet, and these partnerships will enable Irish businesses and entrepreneurs to access world-class resources, insights, skills, research and opportunities. Through the 2o Platform, the body wants to connect Irish start-ups, existing firms and larger brands by connecting them with a dynamic, thriving, innovating network.

The low-carbon model is not just about clean energy. Businesses can provide sustainability in the form of efficiency in food production, access to water and urban population growth.

The name of the platform, itself, refers to the stated global aim to limit future temperature increases to just 2o Celsius, if agreed reduction targets are met.

Wayne Byrne, CEO of OxyMem, a spinout from UCD who have been commercialising an innovative solution to reduce costs for wastewater treatment, comments: “Our success is dependent on many factors, such as access to networks and finance. Collaborating with Sustainable Nation through their 2o Platform and accessing their global network has opened up opportunities which are invaluable.

“Irish companies are recognised as leaders in the sustainability and low-carbon sector and we should actively engage with Sustainable Nation to strengthen our ecosystem, and promote our success.”

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Ambitious projects lead the field for the 2016 Sustainable Energy Awards

Members of the public have been invited to vote online in the “Leadership” category of this year’s Sustainable Energy Awards, with the companies contending for the prize including Abbott, Johnson and Johnson, Musgrave Group and Aurivo.

Organised by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the awards recognise the ambitious and the practical solutions companies use to reduce their carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Other categories in the awards include: large and small business, community, public sector, innovation, research, leadership, buildings and design.

In the Leadership category, the four finalists have been recognised for their “extraordinary leadership and ambition in advancing sustainable energy in their organisations and communities over a prolonged period.”

Abbott, for example, is working towards reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2020 and has saved 2,700 tonnes of CO2 since 2012 at their six Irish sites. Aurivo, meanwhile, is striving to reduce its impact on the environment through energy efficiency and energy from biomass, with recent initiatives offsetting over 8,000 tonnes of CO2.

The winners at the 13th Sustainable Energy Awards will be announced at a gala event on November 3rd in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin.

To vote in the Leadership category, please click here.

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Minister Alex White announces €20 million of grants for energy efficiency

Minister for Energy Alex White, TD, announced today  €20 million in grant offers for local communities under the 2016 Better Energy Communities scheme.

The scheme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), has supported 260 community energy efficiency projects over the last four years. As a result over 12,000 homes and community buildings have received energy efficiency upgrades, supporting several hundred jobs each year.

Minister White said: “This funding will enable the Better Energy Communities programme to continue to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions, while improving living standards and quality of life for the people and communities it supports. The building upgrades funded under the programme support local construction jobs, demonstrating that lower-carbon communities also reap positive economic and social benefits. The programme has grown year on year as communities work together to bring about real and lasting change in the energy efficiency of their homes, businesses and community buildings. Putting communities in control of their own energy usage will be among the core themes of the energy white paper, which I will publish next week.”

Better Energy Communities 2016 will open for applications in the New Year and potential applicants are being encouraged to start engaging early with community partners for large or small projects. The 2016 programme will see a particular focus on innovative financing models and SEAI is encouraging applications from communities that haven’t previously availed of the scheme. This will be supported by SEAI through the provision of expert technical guidance and assistance to build up skills and capacity at a local level to allow them to develop into a Sustainable Energy Community.

An example of a community that has benefited from the Better Energy Communities programme already is Camphill Community, a charitable trust working with people with intellectual disabilities.  Camphill Community teamed up with Glas Energy to make 99 buildings across the public and private sectors more energy efficient.  Another community project has seen businesses, not-for-profit organisations and local government unite across Cavan and Monaghan to cut energy waste.  The energy services provider, REIL, led an extensive cooperation among a wide range of sectors including chicken producer Manor Farm, commercial poultry farmers, the Monaghan and Cavan County Councils, 44 homes, a school and crèche to improve the energy performance of buildings.

Commenting on the innovation demonstrated in BEC projects John Randles, Head of Delivery with SEAI said, “Better Energy Communities is one of SEAI’s key programmes which brings benefits to private, public and community organisations whilst they collaborate and demonstrate that energy efficient and renewable technologies work. This is often achieved by innovative partnerships and innovative financing and delivery solutions. The projects being delivered are becoming more ambitious as the programme has grown and this is thanks to the outstanding and combined efforts of so many willing partners who are focused on a common goal for their community.”

Mr Randles concluded, “With almost €20 million available in 2016, SEAI would like to see new ways of delivering the projects that can bring the maximum benefit to local areas.”

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Green light for Northern Ireland’s largest energy-from-waste facility

A £107 million energy plant at Belfast’s harbour estate could bring around 250 jobs to the construction sector.

What will be the north’s largest energy-from-waste facility, providing 14.85 megawatts of energy from household waste, will also provide work for an additional 20 employees once it is up and running.

The financial case for the long-awaited Full Circle ‘Generation Energy from Waste’ facility, located adjacent to Bombardier’s wing facility, has just been completed, paving the way for work proper now to begin on site.

Design and preliminary site activities having already begun and developers are confident the facility, which will have the capacity to process up to 180,000 tonnes of feedstock derived from household waste, will be fully operational by late 2017.

The scheme will incorporate the use of gasification technology – a process that converts any material containing carbon into synthesis gas (syngas) which can then be burned to produce electricity or further processed to manufacture chemicals or fertilisers.

Gasification has been reliably used on a commercial scale worldwide for more than 60 years in the refining, fertilizer, and chemical industries – and for more than 35 years in the electric power industry – but is now being used to convert municipal and hazardous waste into valuable products.

Full Circle Generation Ltd is made up of a consortium of equity investors including RiverRidge Energy Limited, UK Green Investment Bank plc (GIB), Equitix and P3P Partners.

KPMG Corporate Finance Belfast were instrumental in structuring the all-equity deal finance arrangement with the ‘design, build and operate’ contract awarded to French construction group Bouygues Energies and Services.

Managing director of RiverRidge Energy and RiverRidge Recycling Ltd, Brett Ross, described the announcement as “a significant day” for the Northern Irish waste management sector.

“It is also a significant day for the Northern Irish economy as a whole,” Mr Ross said.

“The delivery of this critical piece of infrastructure provides a number of stakeholders with a world class facility capable of recovering energy from waste in an environmentally sensitive and acceptable manner, as well as the provision of a meaningful base load of renewable energy for Bombardier.”

The construction of the plant will allow for an annual generation capacity of 61GWh, enough renewable energy to power 14,500 homes.
Jonathan Bell, minister of enterprise, trade and investment at the Northern Ireland Assembly, said: “This multi-million pound project is hugely significant, not just for Belfast, but for the Northern Ireland economy as a whole as it will create hundreds of jobs and protect many more.

It will be fueled by feedstock derived of commercial and household waste, with a long-term feedstock contact in place with Pioneer Fuels to provide a continuous source of waste products.

Earlier this year, Northern Ireland’s renewable energy industry received a boost in the form of a fully-funded solar solution which could save businesses up to £320m. Kingspan ESB – a joint venture between building technology firm Kingspan and Ireland’s largest energy company ESB – made photovoltaic (PV) energy available to businesses without the investment normally required in the capital outlay, installation or maintenance of a PV system.

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Greenroom Investments to raise €100m to develop European solar farm portfolio

A new Irish renewable energy fund is aiming to raise €100m before Christmas and start building up a portfolio of solar farms across Europe.

Fledgling fund Greenroom Investments received regulatory approval from the Central Bank earlier in the year, making it one of the first investment funds in the country to do so. Greenroom director Michael Bradley is also the chief executive of another Irish solar energy fund, Solar 21.

Solar 21 was established by the Achill Island native in 2010 as an alternative investment vehicle for professionals such as lawyers, doctors and pharmacists. It currently has about €150m worth of assets under management, with several solar farms in Italy.

Mr Bradley says that, due to its regulation by the Central Bank, Greenroom is geared more towards institutional investors as it gives them more security on their investment. It aims to provide a return of 8.5pc over an eight-year period. Although it is more focused on institutions, retail investors can cough up a minimum of €100,000 to get involved.

“We have been managing Solar 21 for five years and that has been doing well – but we wanted to attract even bigger investors,” said Mr Bradley. “We wanted to put the regulation in there for investors, so there is more security and transparency.”

He said that the fund is looking to raise up to €300m in total through three funding rounds, the first of which is due to close in March.

“The company’s first offering has been very well received by institutional and experienced investors alike and it is expected that the first tranche of fundraising will be finalised before Christmas,” he said.

“We would plan to raise about €300m over the next two to three quarters and then we would look at buying assets.”

The fund is looking to invest the estimated €100m equity within 12 months of the raise. He added that the firm would be looking for assets in major European economies such as Italy.

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Ireland on course to meet 2020 emissions target

Fine Gael MEP for Dublin, Brian Hayes, today welcomed a letter from the EU Climate Commissioner, which says that Ireland is on course to meet its EU greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2020. Under EU binding targets, Ireland is obliged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, compared to 2005 levels.

“EU Climate Commissioner Arias Canete has informed me that if we take into account flexibility mechanisms under EU rules, Ireland is on course to meet its emissions obligations. For the period 2013-2017, Ireland’s emissions targets could be over-achieved. This would allow emission reductions to be banked and then used for the period 2018-2020. The full implementation of planned measures and renewable targets for transport and heat and energy will ultimately help us to meet our targets.

“One of Ireland’s big difficulties is getting other Member States to recognise Ireland’s challenge as a country that has suffered a major economic downturn. The crisis has restricted Ireland’s ability to direct resources into reducing emissions and therefore some flexibility should be afforded to Ireland.

“Commissioner Canete also stated that according to the latest preliminary assessment of projections, 24 Member States are on course to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by 2020.

“There is much work to do to become a truly low-carbon economy, but it should be recognised that progress is being made through the reduction of energy consumption and an increase in the use of renewable energy. According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Ireland is using five times more renewables than in 1990.

“The real challenge lies after 2020, when new obligations will come in and we have to hit more ambitious targets by 2030. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced by 30% compared with 2005 levels. This will require some serious forward planning and I believe the government should develop a long-term national strategy on the reduction of emissions in the context of our international obligations.”

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MEP Kelly gets Paris climate change mandate from European Parliament

The European Parliament this week adopted its position ahead of the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP21.

The adopted document will now give a mandate the Parliamentary delegation that will travel to December’s conference in Paris to put their mark on the Global Agreement that is expected to be reached.

This agreement, which is expected to be finalised in Paris, will aim to put the world on track to achieve its objective of limiting dangerous rises in global average temperature to below 2oC compared with pre-industrial levels.

One member of the Parliament’s delegation will be MEP for Ireland South, Seán Kelly, who for the past number of months has lead Climate Change negotiations in the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).

“I’m delighted that my colleagues in the European Parliament have adopted this balanced yet ambitious position that we have worked so hard to formulate. This position now gives us a strong mandate to ensure that the voice of the European Parliament and, hence, the citizens of the EU are heard in these talks; talks that are critical for the future of our planet and economy,” Mr Kelly said.

The MEP highlighted to his colleagues that it is vital they reach an ambitious agreement in Paris.

Mr Kelly urged that action is needed as we are heading towards irreversible damage being done to our planet, and our country, “What, for instance, would rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps mean for our beautiful coastal areas? What would it mean for Ventry? For Doonbeg? For Baltimore? For Tramore? For Carne? For Greystones? It would be detrimental; Ireland’s southern counties know only too well the need for urgent action”

MEP Kelly was keen to stress, however, that Carbon Leakage – the situation in which, as a result of stringent climate policies, businesses transfer production to other parts of the world with laxer constraints on Greenhouse Gas emissions. He called for other big global emitters to match the ambition that has been shown by the European Union:

“At the same time, we must not fail to consider the parallel challenges we face. We must ensure competitiveness, keep jobs in Europe, maintain the economic recovery, and meet the increased demand for food production. For this reason, it is essential that this agreement is binding and global.

“In Europe we have some of the most efficient processes in the world, particularly agricultural processes. We cannot have a situation in which these processes are displaced to less efficient systems elsewhere, resulting in a more severe impact on global emissions, and rendering the massive efforts we have made in Europe worthless.

“Other big emitters need to match EU climate ambition and I will fight to ensure that this is the case in December”, he concluded.

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