Sustainable Energy Zone FAQ

Click on the links below to view the responses to each question

What is Sustainable Energy?

Sustainable energy enables us to meet today’s energy needs – heating buildings, fuelling transport, using electricity – without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their energy needs.


What are the key National Targets to be achieved by 2020?

  • 40% of electricity is to be supplied by renewable sources
  • 12% of heat is to be supplied by renewable sources
  • Energy demand to be reduced by 20%
  • Energy demand in the public sector is to be reduced by 33%
  • 10% of transport fuels to be bio-fuels

What is an SEC?

A Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) is any community in which everyone works together to develop a more sustainable pattern of energy demand and supply. To do so, they aim as far as possible to be energy-efficient and integrate renewable energy sources as much as practical.


What is the SEC Programme?

The SEC Programme is an SEAI supported programme whose Vision is to stimulate a national move towards sustainable energy practice through demonstration in 6 exemplar communities by 2015.


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Where are the six Exemplar Communities?

Dundalk 2020 is the first exemplar SEC in Ireland. SEAI will select an additional five local authorities through a competitive process to work in partnership with SEAI to develop and deliver an SEC in their County.


What is the Dundalk Sustainable Energy Zone (SEZ)?

An area of Dundalk of around 4 sq km, chosen as a focus point for the SEC Programme activity that contains all the elements of a community –residential, college, secondary school, hospital, leisure facilities, industrial park, retail, hotel and office accommodation. The Dundalk SEZ acts as a focus for sustainable energy initiatives, showing what can be achieved across a community, to stimulate action throughout Dundalk, Louth, the North East Region and Ireland.


What is Dundalk 2020?

Dundalk 2020 is the first Sustainable Energy Community in Ireland, meaning that the Sustainable Energy Zone is not the only part of Dundalk that is involved. Whilst the Zone was the initial focus of activity, relevant initiatives have taken place in the wider Dundalk community. New initiatives are welcomed and encouraged under the Dundalk 2020 banner.


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What does the SEC Programme do/provide?

The SEC Programme provides support to Local Authorities through three levels.

(a) Information - Tools and Resources available on the website

(b) Network – All Local Authorities that submit a proposal to be an SEC will be eligible to join the SEC Network to engage more effectively with SEAI public and private sector programmes and engage with the ongoing dialogue of innovation and policy towards a more sustainable future for Ireland

(c) Partnership – The Sustainable Energy Communities (SEC) Partnership Programme is specific to the 6 exemplar communities selected to participate. It allows SEAI provide tailored assistance to the local authority to implement an SEC using the SEAI structured management process and toolkit. The Programme must engage across all sectors and promote both alternative energy sources and improved energy efficiency within the community. The Programme’s mission is to demonstrate best practice in technology, techniques, policy and behaviour to lead Ireland to a sustainable energy future.


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How will the SEC Programme help the rest of Ireland?

A key element of the SEC Programme is information dissemination – using the 6 communities as an exemplar of what can be achieved. All communities are different, but everyone will be able to learn from the different projects and technologies, selecting those that can help increase the sustainable use of energy in their own particular circumstances.

SEAI’s SEC Programme is pioneering 6 Sustainable Energy Communities to showcase best practice and be exemplars for mechanisms that are replicable by other communities. The SEC Programme will promote and publish results, information and lessons learnt so that any community, town or county can work towards being a Sustainable Energy Community.


Can any community become an SEC?

Yes, any community can become a Sustainable Energy Community. SEAI’s SEC Programme model provides a Structured Management Process and Toolkit for local authority led delivery. Critical to the process is a collaborative approach with key stakeholders and the wider community. SEAI will work in partnership with 6 exemplar communities in the delivery of and SEC in their County.


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How are the 6 Exemplar Communities selected?

Dundalk was the first SEC to be delivered in Ireland. In 2010 SEAI will be inviting Local Authorities to engage in a Round I Call; a two-stage competitive process to select 2 Local Authorities to work in partnership with SEAI to deliver an exemplar Sustainable Energy Community in their County.

A Round II call will be rolled out at a later date through a similar process to select the final 3 communities.


What is the HOLISTIC Project?

HOLISTIC is a group of Work Packages within Dundalk 2020 that have been grouped together and presented to the European Commission for financial support under the European CONCERTO initiative. For this project Dundalk joined together with Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and Mödling (Austria) so that all three communities can work together and learn from each other. Dundalk 2020 was in competition with many other projects across Europe and the success in winning support and approval from the European Commission is a vote of confidence in the SEC Programme.

The name HOLISTIC was chosen as it goes right to the heart of Dundalk 2020 – all aspects of a community coming together to increase the sustainable use of energy.


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What is a Sustainable Energy Zone / What’s the difference between an SEC and an SEZ?

To establish a Sustainable Energy Community, the SEC Programme model begins by concentrating activities in a clearly defined area – called a Sustainable Energy Zone (SEZ). A Sustainable Energy Zone (SEZ) provides the focal point for a Sustainable Energy Community (SEC).

Anchoring activities in an SEZ allows stakeholders to clearly identify what is to be achieved, how it is to be achieved and when it will be achieved. The sustainable energy system can then be expanded into and replicated in the broader community and the region. The SEZ activities thus create a momentum which influences and radiates out into the wider community.


What is the difference between Sustainable Energy Community and Sustainable Communities?

An SEC should not be confused with a sustainable community, which has a much broader sustainability agenda. Nonetheless, both are concerned with environmental, economic and social sustainability.

An SEC focuses on creating sustainable energy systems that work to embed the economic dynamics of the energy supply and use at the heart of the community. This ensures that the environmental and social aspects reach their full potential.


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Who co-ordinates the SEC Programme?

The SEC Programme is centrally coordinated by SEAI and the Programme’s SEC model is led and facilitated by the local-authority and delivered through collaborative action. All members of the community therefore have a part to play and commitment and action by local players is essential.

Whether you live, work or play in the community, there are ways you can get involved to help the SEC be realised. Further information on how you can improve sustainable energy practices in your sector or community can be found on this website and are supported by SEAI’s range of public and private sector programmes.


Who is involved?

Everyone within an SEC is encouraged to get involved, whether it be at a professional or personal level. Organisations should contact the SEAI Project Team and individuals should look out for community action initiatives.


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How is an SEC organised?

The whole SEC comes together with the cross sectoral Steering Group, made up of key community stakeholders. Individual projects/ initiatives will be grouped and implemented through task orientated Action Groups. These Action Groups will reflect the actual projects underway in the community.

The SEC Programme is centrally coordinated by SEAI. Each local exemplar SEC will be led and facilitated by the local-authority with a nominated SEC Champion. The SEC Champion may be a Director of Service from the local authority, who may wish to appoint a Community Project Manager (CPM) to assist in coordinating day to dat activities.


Is an SEC all about technical fixes?

No. Appropriate use of technology is certainly part of an SEC but the attitude and behaviour of organisations and individuals in the community is just as important. Regulation and incentives have a role to play too.


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How are the SEC projects selected?

The first stage is to develop an Energy Master Plan for the identified Sustainable Energy Zone (SEZ). This plan will identify the baseline energy demand and supply for the SEZ. It will become the evidence base against which new ideas and projects are assessed and tracked.

Ideas for projects can be proposed by any individual or any organization, and will be proofed against and aligned with the Energy Master Plan for the community.

In all cases there is a process whereby the prospective project is evaluated against key criteria such as the SEC vision, key stakeholder interest ascertained, viability and the idea must then be accepted as a ‘Work Package’ by one of the SEC Action Groups.


What will an SEC deliver?

  • Large savings in public and private sector
  • Sharing of resources, expertise, ideas & knowledge
  • Huge spin-off benefits
  • Attracts business, market opportunity
  • Increased potential for jobs & economy
  • Social benefits such as reducing fuel poverty
  • Synergies with development plans for better physical planning
  • Positive publicity for area and organisations
  • Local, Irish case studies of European best practice
  • Strategic links with European project partners
  • Secure, sustainable, competitive energy supply
  • Local delivery of national policy targets

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Key benefits of a Sustainable Energy Community

  • Delivers national policy at local level
  • Creates economies of scale to commercially fund projects
  • Ensures accurate monitoring data and creates a benchmark for national data
  • Assists in streamlining national energy policy
  • Provides alignment and benchmarking to international initiatives
  • Provides clarity (and redefinition) of roles to ensure delivery of national targets

Public organisations

Local authorities, health sector, education sector, enterprise agencies and others

  • Provides a roadmap for public bodies to make progress towards national energy-efficiency targets
  • Allows public bodies to understand and trial new legal and financial tools (e.g., Energy Performance Contracting)
  • Allows public bodies to take a leadership role in tackling climate change
  • Reduces operational costs through demand-side management programmes
  • Creates a critical mass of sustainable-energy enterprises and allows enterprise agencies to provide tailored business solutions
  • Ensures an attractive location for foreign direct investment
  • Creates opportunities for students to learn from projects and gives rise to research opportunities

Private organisations

Chamber of commerce, retail, commercial, leisure, SME and large industry

  • Helps organisations to adopt structured energy management to manage energy costs
  • Creates a cluster of experienced sustainable-energy practitioners who are in a better position to integrate with market requirements
  • Allows for identification of investment opportunities
  • Creates a living laboratory where cutting-edge sustainable-energy technology and techniques can be developed, trialled and tested
  • Provides community training initiatives which will help householders to reduce energy use in their homes
  • Creates economic stability through reducing the energy costs of existing companies and allows for the development of new sustainable-energy companies
  • Potential to create more jobs, improved skills base and service provision in the local economy.

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How can our community apply to The SEC Programme?

An additional 5 communities will be selected by SEAI through a competitive selection process,

It is anticipated that there will be two Rounds of Calls for Submissions from Local Authorities, the first in 2010. Full details on current Calls for submissions and application details can be found here.


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I work in the private sector – how can I help my area become a Sustainable Energy Community?

Please see SEAI Your Business Programmes section for energy saving services and options for business.


I work in the public sector – how can I help my area become a Sustainable Energy Community?

Please see SEAI Your Business Programmes section for information on the services and options for the public sector.


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I am involved with a Residents Association – how can I help my area become a Sustainable Energy Community?

Please see Be Your Own Energy Manager section for information on saving energy at home.


I am involved in education – how can I help my area become a Sustainable Energy Community?

Please see SEAI Schools Programmes section for energy saving information for schools.


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Where does the money come from?

SEAI will provide bespoke resources to the 6 exemplar communities. This support will allow the communities embed the collaborative and management process into everyday activities.

The SEAI programme will not provide funding for specific capital/renewable projects e.g. installation of wind turbines. Nonetheless through engagement with SEAI, local authorities will be focused and directed towards existing SEAI funding schemes. SEAI will also work closely with the 6 Exemplar SEC local authorities to source and apply for other funding streams eg. European funds to realise their projects.

All stakeholders must put time and resources into the work eg. time should be considered a resource. The collaborative approach and clustering of initiatives in an SEZ, enables an SEC to create synergy and leverage its assets.


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What funding is available for management of and deployment of projects in Sustainable Energy Communities?

Through the SEC Programme SEAI will provide direct support to the 6 examplar communities to assist in community project management.


Are local authorities in Northern Ireland able to participate in the SEC Programme?

No to formal SEC programme but yes to the network. The exact terms and conditions of being part of the network are yet to be finalised.

Newry and Mourne District Council is both part of HOLISTIC and a member of the Dundalk 2020 Steering Group. It is keen to contribute and to take experience from Dundalk 2020 and apply it in Newry. More broadly, there is interest in Dundalk 2020 from cross – border groups engaged in energy and economic development.


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