Communities Leading the Way: The Aran Islands
Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árainn: A Leading Example Community
A community owned energy cooperative representing the 3 Aran Islands. Life membership is open to all residents for €100. The cooperative is non-profit with all of the benefits going back into the community.
Our aim is to make the 3 islands fossil-fuel-free using green energy generated on the islands and owned by the cooperative. The project involves upgrading and retrofitting homes and buildings; introducing electric cars and buses; encouraging households to instal heat pumps, photovoltaic and battery storage; generating electricity locally; being partners on numerous EU funded research projects; making the Aran Islands an Energy Research Hub; creating new employment opportunities in the energy field; running Energy Tours on the islands.
The Aran Islands are famous for being self-sufficient. In the past, people sourced all of their food locally from land and sea, the built their houses of local materials, built their own boats, made their own clothes. Their energy source was turf brought in from the mainland in return for salted fish.
The Energy Cooperative developed out of the Development Cooperative Comharchumann Forbartha Árann. A sub committee called the ‘Energy Committee’ worked for many years on this project before establishing the energy cooperative.
We islanders believe in our ability to be self-sufficient again in a sustainable way, see it as a necessity given the reality of climate change, and take pride in working towards those aims.
Impact of the project?
- 50% of the houses have had some energy related retrofitting done since 2012.
- A number of buildings now operating fossil-fuel-free.
- 10 electric cars on Inis Mor.
- Up to 100 buildings now have heat pumps and photovoltaic panels.
- Involved at present in 4 EU funded projects (H2020 and InterReg).
- Now employing 1 person (not on a government scheme).
- Produced an Energy Master Plan
- Conduct Energy Tours on Inis Mor
- Leading partner in SEAFUEL – demonstrating the feasibility to power local transportation networks using H2 fuels produced by renewable energies and seawater, with no net carbon footprint
Tips and advice for similar projects
- A committee will only work well if the aims and objectives are clear and unanimously agreed from the beginning.
- A committee works best if it has one or more people who are champions and who will do whatever it takes.
- Networking with outside agencies, businesses, third level colleges, and other SECs is essential for gaining support.