Business and energy interests in counties Wexford, Kilkenny and Carlow are supporting efforts to create "a low carbon, energy efficient zone", which they predict will be a unique magnet for multinational companies looking for "a near-zero emissions European base".
The 3 Counties Energy Agency (3CEA) is also backed by local authorities from across the counties. The "new ecosystem will set the area apart as a cluster for smart, low carbon and energy efficient business", according to 3CEA manager Paddy Phelan.
It intends to build on success already achieved by the Carlow-Kilkenny Energy Agency (CKEA), which facilitated significant energy consumption reductions in the two counties over the past 15 years. Mr Phelan said adding Wexford to the group gave it the scale to achieve its ambitions in energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2030.
Former director for renewables, research and innovation, energy efficiency with the European Commission, Marie Donnelly, said the initiative created an important zone in Ireland, and was an example for others to follow.
"This new partnership is an excellent example of dynamism and innovation, advancing the energy transition in the area. It reinforces its sustainable credentials as a location for Irish and international business, and is a front-runner example not just for Ireland but also for Europe, " she said at a launch event in New Ross, Co Wexford.
While local authorities in the region had done much to achieve lower C02 emissions by 2030, Mr Phelan said individual counties working under the sustainable energy action plans needed to step up across the transport, agriculture and industry sectors – and within their communities. Establishing the 3CEA was a logical vehicle to make this happen.
He said energy consumption reductions and emissions reductions were made “more efficiently and quickly in a trinity scenario”, and sustainable energy and climate action plans were better delivered.
“Everyone in this area, be they a multinational or a homeowner in a semi-detached house, will benefit from the low carbon, energy efficient hub for business this creates.”
It would also boost job-creation in a part of the country “which has traditionally lagged behind the rest of Ireland”.
Mr Phelan added that the approach adopted by the three counties was similar to the framework created by the world-renowned Berlin Energy Agency.
He said over the past five years, the former CKEA has helped deliver cumulative energy savings of over €14.3 million in thermal/heating, transport and electricity.
Through the Better Energy Communities initiative and other programmes, CKEA has delivered over €19.6 million in capital energy investment. That translated into over 300 jobs across construction, retrofit, technical, engineering, architecture and other skilled posts.
The energy agency has worked with Kilkenny and Wexford Co Councils to cut annual street lighting costs by 64 per cent in a scheme that is being rolled out in both areas.