Limerick as a ‘lighthouse city’: Professor Stephen Kinsella writes about an exciting new project that UL is taking the lead on.
The world is experiencing a Thunberg moment. Globally we are waking up to the realities of climate change.
Electoral priorities are changing, nationally and internationally. The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyden, has said her policies will focus on a Green New Deal for Europe.
This Green New Deal is a vast change in the economic structure of the EU, with spending on clean power technologies to increase markedly, with warmer homes and shorter commutes. If the plan succeeds even partially, we will be well on the way to a new world.
Just knowing there is a path to walk towards a green economy, and actually walking that path, are quite different things. Delivering new energy generation technologies in the real world, with all of its on the ground complexity, is actually walking that path. Limerick is leading Europe in this process, and we will teach Europe what we learn.
Last year, together with Limerick City and County Council, University of Limerick led a Horizon 2020 Innovation Action we called Positive City Exchange (+CityxChange).
This €20 million project puts Limerick and Trondheim in Norway at the forefront of clean technology delivery in Europe.
Limerick is a lighthouse city for five other European cities in producing positive energy blocks.
A positive energy block produces more energy than it consumes. The buildings within the block share or trade the excess energy they produce. In Limerick, UL and the +CityxChange team are looking at an area in the city’s beautiful and historic Georgian core, which includes getting thirty smart energy champions to install new clean generation technology on their properties.
This requires the installation of new sensors, new photovoltaic cells, wind turbines, and even a tidal turbine within the Shannon.
We are not interested in imposing changes on groups of people—we are working hard to engage with citizens from all backgrounds with more than 40 events focussed on City Engage weeks which will take place each April and September, where Limerick’s citizens can co-create the future of the city they want to see.
As a lighthouse city, Limerick will then teach the five follower cities what it has learned.
Lots of things need to change on the ground in Limerick to make a clean, green urban energy system a reality. Everything from upskilling and training 30 energy champions so they are fully aware of the various investment models and the options for renovating their properties.
On the legal side, regulatory sandboxes will be created to live test project innovations in balancing the electricity grid and in compliance with building regulations.
A citizen observatory, where citizens can come and see what is happening has already been established in Fab Lab Limerick, on Rutland Street.
In April, citizens will be able to see project data in real time and use an interactive model to visualise and analyse the impact of positive energy changes they would like to see happen.
An innovation playground will also come online in 2020, enabled by SAUL’s Fab Lab, which is to extend to become an innovation lab with small batch manufacturing capacity to support an open innovation ecosystem.
A space where academia, citizens, business and the city can collaborate to design and test rapid urban prototypes responding to particular challenges faced and accelerating the clean energy transition of Limerick’s Georgian neighbourhood.
The work is challenging, exciting and new. It is what UL should be doing, in the city, together with the city.
One part of the project is the development of a Bold City Vision, to become part of the development plan of the city into the future. Through the development of the vision, we realised the positive city exchange project is both local and global.
Everything we are doing goes hand in hand with UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities), where a big emphasis is being put on ‘’making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’’.