White calls for increased investment in energy efficiency, renewables and clean transport

20 January 2016

Minister for Energy Alex White today (Wednesday) said there must be an early review of Government capital spending plans to allow increased state investment in energy efficiency programmes to help Ireland meet its commitments on global warming and reduced carbon emissions.

Speaking at the Dublin launch of the 2016 Better Energy Communities grant scheme, which will distribute €20 million to community-based energy efficiency projects this year, Minister White said better-than-expected public finances will allow the Government to review its capital plan earlier than the proposed 2017. He said large-scale capital investment was essential in energy efficiency, renewable energy and green transport.

Last month, Minister White published his Energy White Paper, which identifies actions to reduce Ireland’s energy-related carbon emissions by between 80% and 95% by 2050. He said Ireland would eventually have to generate 100% of its energy needs from clean sources.

Speaking at the 2016 launch of the Better Energy Communities scheme today, Minister White said: “We need, as a country, to recommit ourselves to a scale of investment necessary to make our low-carbon ambition a reality. The Government’s capital spending plan, published last September, demonstrates that we are alive to the challenge. But, while significant, it will not be enough to address the entire range of medium to long-term social, economic and environmental priorities that require substantial investment. I very much agree with my colleague Brendan Howlin, when he said that our better-than-expected public finances will allow us to review the capital plan earlier than 2017.

“I am part of a political tradition that champions long-term capital investment as a core element of public policy: One that needs to be valued – as much as current spending and tax breaks – by politicians, businesses, commentators and citizens. If we are returned as part of the next coalition Government, Labour will prioritise capital investment in a broad range of areas. This will include Better Energy Communities and other programmes that will help us meet the challenge of global warming, which requires large-scale investment in energy efficiency, renewables, and green transport.”

The Better Energy Communities scheme, which is administered for the Government by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), has so far funded 260 community projects, which together have seen 12,000 homes, community buildings, charities, sports clubs and businesses benefit from energy efficiency upgrades.  An additional €20 million has been allocated for projects in 2016. Applications are limited to €1 million per project. A new category has been created for projects under €50,000, and technical guidance is being provided to encourage support for smaller projects that might not have received funding in the past. For the first time, community-based renewable electricity projects will also be supported.

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