I want to encourage individuals, businesses and communities facing rising energy costs to access available supports.
I recently hosted two events, one in Laois and one in Offaly, which brought together key agencies to offer solutions on the rising cost of energy. These two events were relevant to ‘anyone who pays a utility bill’, they raised wide ranging discussion from immediate and low cost measures to more medium term measures requiring an investment.
To summarise, the key message was that supports are available and I really encourage people to reach out: If you are struggling to pay a bill as an individual please engage with your local Money Advice and Budgeting Service. The utility companies have hardship funds and MABS are experts at accessing these and helping you work out a payment plan for the balance. If you are a business with financial concerns, contact your Local Enterprise Office.
Government is designing direct supports for businesses to assist with energy costs. I likening these supports to crutches which are essential for short term mobility but suggested that the longer term ‘therapy’ for the energy health of a business is a transition to some level of energy independence.
I am very aware that businesses have many demands on their time but I really encourage them to access funding for consultancy – be it energy consultancy through SEAI or ‘Green for Micro’ through the Local Enterprise Office: A fresh perspective is always useful and these are typically fully funded.
At the Birr venue, Lisa and Brendan from SEAI award winning design and ecoprint business ‘The Factory’ told attendees about their transition to generating 65% of their own energy.
“We took a risk but it has paid dividends – the market for businesses who are pursuing sustainability is growing and now is the time for businesses to gain this unique selling point. It’s not only good for the bottom line – it’s great for team morale”
Laurence O’Reilly, SEAI Communities mentor for Laois and Offaly, recommended householders loan the ‘Home Energy Kit’ from their local library at no charge as the most expensive energy is the energy we lose. He said:
‘This kit helps you to identify low cost or no cost areas where a household can help reduce energy waste. You don’t need to be an expert – all instructions are included’.
Laurence also encouraged people to look into joining a ‘Sustainable Energy Community’ (SEC) to take an active part in the transition to a low carbon future. He said that SEAI offers multiple supports to SECs beyond their usual energy grant offering.
It is a challenging time but there are also great opportunities for people to take back control of their energy costs. If I was to pull out the main points they would be: Understand your energy use, engage with services if you are struggling with bills, insulate, and, for those with a little more to invest put some solar panels on your roof. Free of charge, become part of a larger community energy project through a SEC.