Dingle: A case study for a sustainable future
The Dingle Peninsula is a well-known beauty spot, a magnet for holidaymakers in County Kerry. But there’s more: it is also home to an exciting project involving a number of key national agencies and local community representatives coming together to explore the transition to a low carbon future: Dingle 2030.
This project involves partnership between MaREI, SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and the Marine, ESB Networks, Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub (Mol Teic), Dingle Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) and North East and West Kerry Development Board (NEWKD).
The overarching goal of this group is to explore, support and enable the broader societal changes required for the low carbon transition across the Dingle Peninsula. That means using renewable sources to power and heat homes and businesses, and enabling people get from one place to another in ways that put less of a burden on climate.
In practice the work includes the ESB Networks “The Dingle Project”, which involves upgrading the existing electricity grid to investigate how the future smart network may look, and five local ‘ambassadors’ having low-carbon technologies installed and evaluated in their homes, such as air-sourced heat pumps, electric vehicle chargers and solar panels. In line with this, the Dingle Creativity & Innovation Hub, located within Dingle town, has established the Dingle Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) and a number of initiatives relating to smart agriculture, sustainable transport, rural regeneration and bioenergy in the region. The primary goal is to explore how a low carbon transition may benefit the local community by providing new and interesting employment opportunities.
Connor McGookin, a PhD student at MAREI, who works on Dingle 2030, alongside fellow PhD student Evan Boyle, and Engagement Research Support Officer Clare Watson, explains, “It’s a multi-stakeholder project and I am looking at how stakeholders can work collectively with public, industry, business, community and state bodies to develop models for energy systems.”
Much of McGookin’s work involves collecting data about how people in the area use energy and resources, and working with that information to figure out plans for the future of the energy system. “The project involves strategy, technology and people,” he explains. “So we are looking at the best way to bring those together – for example perhaps the oldest houses in the region need to be targeted first for smarter and greener technologies in order to ensure the best outcomes. We can model these kinds of datasets and engage with people to progress the project in a way that works for everyone.”
Community engagement forms a core component of the project, and workshops and events seek to encourage people to be involved. “Dingle has a vibrant community but the population is falling, and we want to ensure that people are able to stay here and make the most of sustainable technologies. So we want to work closely with the people who live and make their livelihoods here, without them this won’t happen.”
The hope is that the project, which finishes in 2021, will put Dingle on course to be a flagship area for sustainable communities and living by 2030, aiming to meet and exceed the targets set by the recent Climate Action plan and highlighting how the transition to a low carbon future may help to address the challenges facing rural Ireland.