New Energy Advice Kiosk Opens on Grand Parade in Cork to Support Energy Communities

Looking for some advice on how to work with your neighbours, or with your community, to save or even generate energy at home and carbon emissions? Cork City Council’s new Home Energy Upgrade Office kiosk on Grand Parade in Cork, provides just such a service. The public can call in to get expert information on all aspects of forming communities that are looking to upgrade their homes or community buildings to be more energy efficient or install community owned renewable generation.


It’s all part of UP-STAIRS, a pan-European project, that aims to create more energy communities by giving people the practical tools, business models and concepts to do so. Cork is one of five European cities to be chosen for this pilot programme of one-stop-shops. Led in Ireland by the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) part of Tyndall National Institute, with the support of Cork City Council, the programme will also run in Germany, Austria, Spain and Bulgaria.


The Home Energy Upgrade Office is open 5 days a week, Monday to Friday, with specialised staff from Cork City Council, known as UP-STAIRS Implementation Champions, on hand to give people advice and support on all aspects of improving their energy efficiency. This includes financial advice, organizational, technical and legal support, facilitation and mediation, and follow up services on how to form an energy community. Those interested can also log onto the UP-STAIRS Digital Platform where they can register which aspects of energy consumption reduction that they are interested in. The Implementation Champions can then bring together those that are interested in similar upgrades or developments and work with them on all aspects of their upgrades or new developments. The platform also has a host of information on all areas of reducing energy consumption and provides the opportunity for people and communities to share their ideas and projects.   


Dr Padraig Lyons, Head of Group at IERC says. “We want to bring home-owners, neighbours, and local communities together to form ‘energy communities’. When people work together, they can often get better results at a reduced cost. For instance, if a group of neighbours are interested in getting solar panels on their houses, it would be cheaper for them to come together as an ‘energy community’ for the project, as often the costs, such as hiring a cherry-picker for installation can be spread across the group. Our Implementation Champions will support them through the whole process from advising on grants, to legislation and providing technical information.”


Lorena Sanchez-Relano, who works on UP-STAIRS, emphasised the importance of communities leading this initiative. “The focus of this project is to empower local communities to come together and act collectively in relation to energy conservation measures or the installation of renewable energy. We want people and their communities to tell us what will work best for them. Armed with this knowledge, our Implementation Champions can then support them on their journey. For some it may be installing a wind turbine with shared usage, for others it may be retrofitting insulation in a shared building or maybe installing an electric vehicle charging station for public use. We know how fantastic engagement can be in local communities. We are here to offer them the support and expert knowledge that they need to make their homes and communities less costly to power and ensure that they are more sustainable.”


The pilot project, which is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund, will run until January 2024. It is hoped that if it is successful, the service will be offered permanently.


The Home Energy Upgrade Office is also supporting the complimentary activities of the Intensify project, funded by Interreg Europe, which aims to increase carbon reduction through intense community engagement in the areas of knowledge and accessibility. The main aim of this project is to empower and energise communities and local citizens with the necessary knowledge and accessibility to improve their energy efficiency and support the development of a low carbon society.


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