The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a statutory body set up to promote both social and economic development in the Western Region of Ireland by:
- Developing strategic regional development projects in areas like tourism, industry, marine, renewable energy, technology and organic agri-food.
- Ensuring that government policy is directed at improving the social and economic situation in the region.
- Operating the €32 million Western Investment Fund (WIF) to provide loans and equity to business and local communities in the West.
Small, flexible and regionally focused, the WDC collaborates with public, private and voluntary sectors. The organisation’s strong ethos of sharing intellectual and other resources means it is well placed to help achieve common good within the NPP region.
The WDC plays a key role in regional development through strategic initiatives in various sectors such as renewable energy, creative economy, agriculture and tourism. It also provides a promotional platform for the region (Lookwest.ie), which serves to facilitate individuals and enterprise located in the region. In addition, it advises government on policies affecting the region (all proposals are based on comprehensive economic and social research). The WDC also ensures that government policy is directed at improving the social and economic situation in the Western Region and that the interests of the West are always considered at the highest levels of government. The Western Investment Fund (WIF) is also managed by the WDC – this was established to fill a ‘funding gap’ adversely affecting businesses and community groups in the region.
Supported by a Regional Wood Energy Advisory Group, the WDC has been leading a strategic wood-energy project since 2007. This resulted in the Wood Energy Strategy for the Western Region. The WDC then led RASLRES (Regional Approaches to Stimulating Local Renewable Energy Solutions) a Northern Periphery Programme funded under the ERDF Interreg IVB programme.
Further information on the NPP funded RASLRES project and the Bioenergy tool can be found at http://www.raslres.eu/
Benefits of bioenergy
Increased use of bioenergy will bring multiple benefits to the Western Region. For example, with regard to just the wood energy market, if the Western Region supplied 11 per cent of the regional heat market by wood fuel in 2020, the estimated impacts include the creation of 887 full time equivalents (FTE) jobs; increased annual gross value added (GVA) in the region of €15 million per annum; increased regional timber usage providing €1.7 million to the farming sector per annum; and CO2 emissions savings of 619,000 tonnes.
It is also anticipated that developing a market for wood thinnings and by-products will improve the management of local forestry and woodlands and provide benefits in terms of the quality of wood at final harvest and the wider environmental quality of the woods and forests themselves.
Developing bioenergy will contribute to long-term viable economic activity in rural areas. Because bioenergy fuels make use of existing natural resources, most of the employment is rural, and high transport costs mean that activities are locally based, bringing benefits throughout rural areas.
Finally, appropriate and planned development of the bioenergy sector will give rise to greater awareness of the carbon economy and environmentally sensitive behaviours (both personal and corporate), including wider use of green technologies, which in turn will have benefit of the wider economy and, of course, the environment.
Lead Partner of BioPAD
The WDC is lead partner of the overall project and responsible for the project management (work package 1).
As lead partner the Western Development Commission is responsible for the overall project and financial management, together with the required communications strategy. The activities include the project management, financial management, monitoring, communication, dissemination and evaluation of the project. It will ensure that appropriate financial, monitoring and communication structures are in place.
A key goal of BioPAD is to communicate the results of the project to a wide audience across the NPP region and beyond, encourage adoption of the BioPAD tools developed and raise the industry potential in rural parts of the NPP region. Results and impacts of the project will be presented and disseminated in national and international seminars, regional meetings, through different media and communication channels according to the joint communication plan. Members of local and energy national networks associated with the project will be kept regularly informed about project implementation and results and access to associate partner expertise will add significant value to the project.
Dr. Helen McHenry
BioPAD Project Co-ordinator
Find out more about the WDC at:
Associate Partners based in the Republic of Ireland are: