After the success of the Leitrim Cróga Climate Dialogue, the Good Energies Alliance Ireland (GEAI) team created once again a space for the local community in Leitrim to continue to be active in environmental and social matters. With a Vision for Sustainable Leitrim in mind, GEAI is creating a series of sessions to discuss a few of the Sustainable Development Goals. To understand which topic the local community would like to address first, the team prepared an online survey. Most of the respondents chose Renewable Energy.

The first series theme was Affordable and Clean Energy, the 7th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). This SDG considers that moving towards a world where all people have access to affordable energy must be done in a way that does not compromise the planet we live on. The development and investment in renewables such as solar and wind energy projects is the way to achieve this goal.

Ireland has immense potential for the use of renewables. Unfortunately, there are still some obstacles to developing and implementing such projects at an individual and community level.

Brainstorming Ideas

On November 29th, the first session was held in the Ballinaglera Community Hall. After tea and coffee, Aedín opened the session by giving a summary of some of the local issues as well as the study of emissions previously done in County Leitrim for the Cróga project. The report produced at the time showed that this is one of the most promising counties in Ireland to achieve net zero.

Mariangela, one of our Italian European Solidarity Corps (ESC) volunteers continued the session with a fun game for the GEAI team to know the locals and vice versa. The winner, Mary Doherty, received a prize crafted by Julie Gale, the office administrator of GEAI.

The time had come to deepen our understanding of issues related to the 7th SDG. Hector, another of our ESC volunteers, introduced the reverse brainstorm to the group: “How may we move away from affordable and clean energy?. From using only fossil fuels to the misuse of appliances, the group came up with highly creative ways to worsen the current climate crisis.

Now that the group understood what should not be done, it was time to think of as many solutions as possible to achieve a Sustainable Leitrim. Carina opened the following brainstorming session in the form of a World Café. The attendees were divided into tables of four people to write down ideas and actions. After some time, people would move to another table and continue the discussion with different people. This allowed the group to produce a lot of different ideas.

To finalise the session, each group selected the actions they believed must be included in the Vision for a Sustainable Leitrim. The following topics were the ones that migrated to the following session:

  1. Revisiting our existing SECs (Sustainable Energy Community) to explore ways to make it easier to implement community projects, including planning matters.
  2. More and cheaper access to the grid for community renewable energy projects.
  3. Faster rollout of Small Solar PV projects, especially on farms, schools, and businesses with income generation, including feed-in tariffs and allowances for sustainable uses of land.
  4. More involvement of Credit Unions in supporting community energy projects, including grants and schemes related to renewables, with more flexible requirements and rates for those seeking financing of such projects.

These ideas were conceived during the session, and all of them were discussed by the attendees. But we needed experts to bring these topics to the energy reality, and that is what GEAI prepared for the second session. Mel Gavin (Head of Research Unit, ATU and SEC Mentor), John Mannion (Mohill Enterprise Centre and Mohill SEC), James Duffy (Leitrim Development Company, LEADER funding) and Seamus Dunbar (North Leitrim SEC) were the ones that accompanied us throughout the second session, that took part on the 6th of December in the Drumshanbo Enterprise Center.

Leitrim Climate Talks aim to bring the Sustainable Development Goals to the local communities of our County. Doing so, they had the opportunity to discuss their energy necessities and propose new solutions to the present problems. We believe that change must start with the ideas and necessities of the people. The role of GEAI is to make these conversations happen and turn them into action. We are looking at the results of these two sessions and working on a vision for a sustainable Leitrim. Affordable and Clean Energy in Leitrim will only be obtained if we listen to what the locals have to say.

*This project is supported by the European Year of Youth 2022, Léargas and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

Written by Carina Castanheta