RECENT Mid Term Conference - "Renewable Energy Solutions for Sustaining Rural Communities“

On April 27th 2017 the RECENT Partners held the project mid-term conference, "Renewable Energy Solutions for Sustaining Rural Communities" in Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland. The event consisted of a range of speakers from various backgrounds and information on each, along with their talk in full, can be seen in the report below.

Our opening speaker was Ruth Buggie of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Ruth is the Sustainable Energy Communities and Smart Grid Programme Manager with SEAI. She joined SEAI in 2005 and has managed a number of programmes including the SEAI Energy Poverty programme, the Better Energy Homes Scheme and the Area Based programme. In her current role Ruth is responsible for managing the SEAI Smart Grid programme with a focus on the development of Ireland’s Smart Grid Portal as an integrated one-stop portal of national energy assets and infrastructure, energy related enterprises and innovators and research activities.

She sits on the Board of Smart Grid Ireland and is the Executive Committee Member for Ireland of ISGAN. Ruth is also responsible for the development and deployment of the Sustainable Energy Communities programme to support the development of a community approach to energy and to stimulate a national move towards sustainable energy practice through demonstration in exemplar communities.

Ruth holds a Degree in Building Services and a Masters in Energy Management from the Dublin Institute of Technology. She previously worked for a number of years as a Sustainable Energy Design Engineer in Australia and as a project manager in an electrical engineering firm.

Ruth was followed by our second speaker; Sean O Coisdealbha who is a Development Executive at Udaras na Gaeltachta and who spoke on “The use of Innovation within communities to sustain their future”. Sean’s educational background is in Chemistry but has worked in a variety of roles over the years which has helped to develop an understanding of business from systems management perspective initially (specifically quality management) to a broader understanding of business.

In more recent times Sean has carried out research into innovation, as it is applicable to SMEs, and this research has given an insight into the practical problems associated with Innovation in SMEs. Sean is a founding member of Ionad Ealaiona Iorras Teo that runs a €2million Arts facility in Beal an Mhuirthead and a director of Turasoireacht Iorras Teo since 1996 running Carne Golf Complex.


Our third speaker was Tom Quinn of Bord na Móna Powergen whose topic was "Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management".

Tom is the Energy Services Manager for Bord na Móna Powergen, a company that at its core operates and maintains a number of thermal and renewable power generation assets. Energy Services are tasked with managing our annual energy efficiency compliance assisting businesses, communities and residents achieve energy efficiency.

Bord na Móna Powergen work in partnership with customers to understand their customers' energy needs, and assess where savings could be made. Through these partnerships, Bord na Móna Powergen try and deliver energy efficiency projects that often result in savings. In addition to Energy Services, Tom has project managed the successful completion of a number of projects including our 5MWe landfill gas installation complete with innovative gas cleaning.

Next up was Brian McDonald who gave a very impassioned and enjoyable talk. Brian has worked as research & evaluation officer of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes since 2002. As a spokesperson for the Federation, he is responsible for the production of the quarterly Rural Water News magazine and regularly represents the NFGWS in media interviews.

A former vice chair of the National Source Protection Pilot Project, Brian has a particular interest in the area of catchment management and was an early advocate of zone of contribution delineation/catchment mapping on all GWS sources as a first step in designing sensible and defensible source protection strategies. His duties include the training of group water schemes in the area of quality assurance. He also provides additional QA mentoring to schemes that are considered at risk.

Given the tough task of following Brian was Barry Greig, of Scottish Government Water Industry Team. Barry joined the Scottish Government after working as a lawyer and commercial arbitrator in the City of London and has since worked in a variety of policy roles including helping establish the Food Standards Agency, and drafting Scotland’s first Sustainable Development Strategy.

Barry joined the Water Industry Team in January 2014 to project manage the delivery of the XVth International Water Resources Association World Water Congress, held in Edinburgh in May 2015, and to lead work on ‘Scotland the Hydro Nation’, an innovative policy which seeks to ensure Scotland manages its water environment to the best advantage, employing its knowledge and expertise effectively at home and internationally.

Rounding off the day of the guest speakers was DIT's Dr Alec Rolston who spoke about “The value of engaging communities in local water management”. Dr Rolston is a principle investigator based at the Centre for Freshwater and Environmental Studies at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

His professional interests encompass all aspects of water resources management, integrated catchment management and community engagement at national and international levels. Alec has coordinated a number of wide-ranging water resource management projects in both Australia and Ireland.

He is currently Project Manager for the EU MANTEL Project (Management of Climatic Extreme Events in Lakes and Reservoirs for the Protection of Ecosystem Services) in addition to delivering projects focussing on the benefits that are provided to people and the environment by water catchments (Extra TIMe Project); understanding how people value and use their local water resources (Shared Waters, Shared Landscape Project); improving the integration of water management in Ireland (TIMe Project); assessing catchment-scale issues for the protection of drinking water sources (Group Water Scheme Source Protection); and empowering communities to improve local drinking water quality (Our Community, Our Water Project) .