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COP a look at an energy co-opthat is powering up sustainably

The Conference of the Parties (COP26) is coming to an end in Glasgow, heralding a collective incentive to keep global temperature increase below 2ºC.

As further steps to limit global heat to 1.5ºC are put in place and strategies for meeting Zero Carbon targets by 2050 add further pressure, the demands on nations to commit to a mass carbon footprint reduction to redress environmental unbalance is now at a crucial stage.

This comes at a time when some Northern Ireland energy customers are facing hardship as prices continue to soar.

Gas bills alone are increasing in some cases by up to 21.8 per cent.

While the source of the problem lies with continuing rising wholesale energy cost, most people agree there has never been a greater more urgent need for sustainable alternatives to counter the current downward spiralling trend.

Enter a new community co-operative, Edenderry Village Energy (EVE), which is actively seeking to help bring about a positive power alternative blueprint to the semi-rural south Belfast village.

Set in the sleepy heart of the Lagan Valley region, Edenderry is a 19th century conservation mill village, built between the years of 1866 and 1911 by the linen manufacturer John Shaw Brown – the village was a place his linen workers called home.

Sometimes referred to as a great example of a semi-planned industrial community, it is perhaps fitting that today’s village community residents have come together to make the transition to a 21st century greener way of life.

Karen Arbuckle, Chair Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), said: “The village of Edenderry is enviably positioned to avail of a natural sustainable resource on its doorstep; an opportunity for the village to make a just transition from fossil fuel heating to a low-carbon and energy efficient heating system, in an equal and fair way that is owned and run by and for the community.”

Karen advised: “Edenderry Village Energy’s plans began in earnest in the first part of this year. Unfortunately, unlike GB and RoI, Northern Ireland is currently devoid of any community energy policy and development support.”

In helping bridge this current policy gap, NICE was more than happy to engage and work collaboratively with Edenderry Village Energy, sharing knowledge, experience and expertise to aid getting this innovative proposal ‘off the starting block’.

NICE successfully pitched to The National Lottery Community Fund – Awards for All fund to procure a fundamental feasibility study, an early-stage necessity to gain an understanding of the potential geo-thermal options and project viability. GeoServ Consultancy has been commissioned and the feasibility study is now underway.

Edenderry Director Ronan Davison-Kernan explains: “Edenderry Village Energy was set up by a group of residents with a shared belief, coupled with concern for the climate and future generations.

“We have backgrounds in energy, water and conservation, and are collectively striving to help the village make a just transition to clean energy helping to alleviate the risk of fuel poverty, providing a stable and dependable source of heat, not subject to increasing fuel prices, eliminating need for harmful fossil fuel boilers thereby improving air quality.

“Edenderry is currently heated by a mix of oil and gas but the village’s location beside the River Lagan and placement on the Sherwood Sandstone Aquifer means it is ideal for a district heating system.

“Houses can instead benefit from a central heat pump and hot water pipes, a system that is three times more efficient than individual fossil fuel heating systems.

“None of this is possible without taking the first step of a feasibility study.

“The advice and assistance from NICE at this key stage has been invaluable and without which this community district heating initiative may not have got off the ground.”

Edenderry Village Energy officially established as a co-op in September with the vital support and advice of Northern Ireland’s only co-operative development body, Co-operative Alternatives, who guided us through Belfast City Council’s Go Social scheme.

Tiziana O’Hara of Co-operative Alternatives said: “The message is a clear one; communities should come together to make the impossible possible.

“As a co-op, Edenderry Village Energy has the buying power to consider geothermal heat. For most individuals this would be well out of reach due to cost implications.”

n Edenderry Village Energy will have an online presence in the near future but if you would like to find out about the co-op please get in touch by email edenderry.village.energy@gmail.com

n Alternatively contact Tiziana O’Hara at Co-operative Alternatives 078 58 317 634 or visit coopalternatives.coop

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