Delegates from six European countries, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Croatia, Latvia and Poland, assembled in Waterford this week for a series of workshops and project visits examining different approaches to supporting greater private investment in Renewable Energy. Hosted by the Southern Regional Assembly, the event forms part of an Interreg Europe project – FIRESPOL – that seeks to boost regionally-specialized and decentralized Renewable Energy private investment through shared best practice and innovation. 

The Metropolitan Mayor of Waterford, Cllr. Breda Brennan, welcomed the delegates to Waterford and stressed the importance of sharing good practice in renewable energy investment across member states.

Delegates included representatives of national and regional government departments, local authorities, energy agencies, funding agencies, renewable energy technology providers and private investors.

The Director of the Southern Regional Assembly, David Kelly, referred to the publication in June 2019 of the Government’s Climate Action Plan 2019 which includes ambitious renewable energy targets for 2030 and sets out plans on how to close the gap on where we need to be by 2030. He referred also to the Draft Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) for the Southern Region published by the Southern Regional Assembly in December 2018.

“The draft RSES includes specific objectives around Renewable Energy. This is where projects such as FIRESPOL have an important role to play. By sharing good practice in renewable energy investment, we can maximise the return on investment from both public and private investment in renewable energy generation and storage within our region”.

A highlight of the event was a project visit to Flahavans in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. Flahavans, a family business has been producing oats since 1785 and has a strong commitment to sustainable production. They estimate that somewhere between 60% and 70% of their energy demand is being met from their own renewable sources, including on-site hydro, biomass, wind and solar PV installations.

The visitors were given a warm Waterford welcome by John, James and Ellen Flahavan who provided a tour of the renewable energy installations on-site and shared the story of seven generations of Flahavans.

“Flahavans is a very good example of RES private investment by Autoproducers - large energy users that mainly produce power for their own use but may also export surplus power to the national grid”, explains Enda Hogan, Southern Regional Assembly. “It is also a stunning location to visit and it was made all the more enjoyable by the welcome we received and the warm sunny day we chose to visit. Our visitors were fascinated with and hugely encouraged by the commitment shown by Flahavans to sustainability and the use of renewable energy”.

The next stage of the project is for each project partner to examine the shared good practices and to develop action plans for their own regions that can integrate some of the lessons learned. The Southern Regional Assembly will work with local, regional and national stakeholders to progress this action plan for the Southern Region.

The FIRESPOL project is co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund under the Interreg Europe Programme. The project seeks to boost regionally-specialized and decentralized Renewable Energy Private Investment through shared best practice and innovation within Regional Operational Programmes. This shared best practice and innovation will inform the design and implementation of current and future Operational Programmes in Europe.