Opening doors to new energy
Today, McCarthy’s life and health have turned around after a county energy programme removed her coal fireplace and renovated the whole house. Her rooms are now dust free, she can walk around without coughing, and she doesn’t get as many infections. “I don’t know myself today,” says McCarthy, who has a respiratory disease that leaves her with only 20 percent of her lung capacity.
There are many more success stories like McCarthy’s, says Louise White, an energy efficiency expert at the European Investment Bank.
“Energy programmes like this can do more than just save money by lowering bills. They can also really improve people’s living conditions,” says White, who helps run ELENA, the European Local Energy Assistance programme that prepares energy efficiency projects across Europe.
In Ireland, a EUR1.5 million ELENA grant is helping the Tipperary Energy Agency prepare energy audits and feasibility studies that will lead to hundreds of renewable energy renovations in private homes. The grant, signed in July last year, is helping Tipperary install insulation in homes and replace dirty solid-fuel heating systems with modern heat pumps that use electricity. The grant also is helping with the installation of low-energy street lighting and with energy efficiency plans in public buildings and small businesses.
‘We make it as easy as possible’
The EIB hopes that similar energy projects will be started across Ireland. One of the main aims is to build up local knowledge and then use the new capability to replicate the project. An ELENA grant in the Picardy region of northern France, for the renovation of thousands of housing units, is an example of a “one-stop shopping” model that other regions could copy. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, local officials used ELENA to make sweeping energy renovations, and the government published guidelines to show others how to replicate the city’s energy efficiency plan.
ELENA is growing. In addition to other energy projects being supported, the European Commission decided late last year to allocate EUR 94 million to ELENA to expand energy efficiency in the European residential sector. The EIB runs the ELENA programme on behalf of the European Commission.
“ELENA offers that extra something that can get energy projects started, even in private homes,” White says.