Limerick selected as pilot for major EU programme aimed at transforming urban areas into positive energy districts

  • CityxChange Launch Minister Bruton
At the launch of +CityxChange Programme, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. (Pic: Alan Place)

Limerick has today been formally unveiled as one of two EU ‘lighthouse’ cities that have been selected for a major climate-change pilot programme that will give a lead to the rest of Europe on how to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of urban areas.

Launched by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. at the Georgian House, Pery Square, the EU +CityxChange Programme (Positive City Exchange) sees Limerick, along with Trondheim in Norway, chosen to roll out a project that has the potential to revolutionise how we produce and use energy in European cities and towns.

The programme is funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme in the call for ‘Smart Cities and Communities’ and is led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) together with the Lighthouse Cities Trondheim and Limerick.

Limerick’s selection for the project will see the ‘Georgian Neighbourhood’ in the heart of the city become a testbed for data collection and a range of new technologies that will transform it into a positive energy city centre where it creates more electricity than it uses.

Said Deputy Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Adam Teskey, “This is a very proud day as we embark on another new and great Limerick journey and possibly among our greatest. Today we officially begin a programme here in our stunning Georgian core that, together with Trondheim in Norway, will help define how urban areas in the EU become positive energy cities. We must believe in our ability to tackle climate change and, if we do, in years to come, Europe will be able to look back and say that much of this started in two cities, one in Norway and the other in Ireland - Limerick.”

Launching the project, Minister Bruton said: "I have set the ambition for Ireland to become a leader in Climate Action and today Limerick is becoming an EU leader. Positively managing energy is pioneering thinking from Limerick City and I hope that this programme will influence our other cities and towns to do the same. The Government’s Climate Action Plan has set a target for 70% renewable energy by 2030 and it is only through ambitious programmes like +CityxChange that this will be achieved. Since the foundation of the state the mid west region has been to the forefront of renewable energy with the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Power Station and I commend Limerick City and County Council for continuing that tradition today." 

Said Project Coordinator Dr. Mihai Bilauca of Limerick City and County Council, “Climate change is everywhere and everyone has a role to play in this. From a Limerick perspective, we are really proud to have been selected for what is a revolutionary EU programme that will transform the Georgian neighbourhood into positive energy district, a district that creates more energy than it consumes. In turn, this will give a lead to other cities across Europe and beyond as to how to play their part in tackling climate change.  

“This is a huge opportunity for us because Limerick will become the example on how to transition from the traditional energy market of large and few energy generators, especially those harmful to the environment, to the new model of many micro generators of clean energy. The micro generators in this pilot programme will be the people and the building owners in the Georgian neighbourhood.”

The pilot will start with a core of five buildings within the Georgian district of Limerick, anchored around Gardens International, the Limerick Twenty Thirty 112,000sq ft building developed on Henry Street to LEED Gold standard efficiency - one of the world’s leading energy standards. Gardens International’s sustainability will enable it to exchange credits with other buildings in the programme with differing carbon ratings. The other buildings already signed up for the programme are Limerick Chamber of Commerce and Rooney Auctioneers on O’Connell Street; Limerick’s General Post Office, Lower Cecil Street and Limerick Youth Services on Glentworth Street - all within the ‘Georgian neighbourhood’.

A key plank of the programme will be data harvesting, with data around energy usage/ consumption collected and analysed over the period of the programme. Simultaneously, a range of new solutions based on digital technologies and digital platforms will be put in place to enable a cluster of buildings to become a net energy producer and not just a consumer.

This will include retrofitting older buildings, introducing technologies such as heat-pumps, PV panels, energy storage solutions and electric cars.

+CityxChange will also adapt local innovations, most significantly the deployment of a revolutionary tidal turbine developed by Limerrick company Gkinetic. This unique turbine will be placed in and harness the power of the River Shannon in the heart of Limerick City, generating electricity for the positive energy zone.

The programme will not be the first time the region has been a national leader in terms of green energy generation. Some 90 years ago this year, on the outskirts of the city, the Shannon Hydroelectric scheme commenced electricity generation at Ardnacrusha, a scheme that generated enough electricity - green electricity - for the entire nation. It was also the biggest building and civil engineering project of its kind in Europe at the time.

Added Dr. Bilauca, “The Ardnacrusha Power Station on the outskirts of Limerick City was a global exemplar a hundred years ago. Now we go again, becoming a European lighthouse ‘Smart City’, a model for other European cities to follow. A clean energy future can only be created by people and the wider local community and today we ask everyone in Limerick to take part in the fight against climate change. Everyone can become part of this clean energy future, a future that limerick is just about to help Europe define.”

The launch of +CityxChange comes just months after Limerick City was awarded the European Green Leaf for 2020. The European Green Leaf Award is a competition aimed at cities and towns across Europe, with between populations of 20,000 and up to 100,000 inhabitants that recognises commitment to better environmental outcomes, with a particular accent on efforts that generate green growth and new jobs.

Limerick was commended for its ongoing investments leading to improved air quality and noise levels in the city. Limerick is currently transforming itself into Ireland’s first digital city, integrating several public services, creating smart homes and buildings, energy districts and smart neighbourhoods, thus linking in with the +CityxChange programme.

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