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Lessons on climate action from the Rural Electrification scheme

21 Aug 2019

Article with RTE Brainstorm by Fionn Rogan

Opinion: Implementing the Climate Action Plan will require a level of engagement and transformation last seen when electricity came to rural Ireland

Switching on an electric light for the first time was an unprecedented change for a generation of people in rural Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s. Each household had to be persuaded by the ESB to pay a usage and regular flat fee ("the ground rent"). They had to allow new technology (poles, wires, a meter, fuse-boxes, sockets) into their homes and they had to accept a strange new service ("the electric") that few understood and many feared. For the next generation that grew up with electricity, it was the most normal thing in the world.

The Rural Electrification Scheme brought electricity to 1.75 million people in Ireland that had no access to modern energy services until then. It was an enormous logistical, capital, technological and cultural project that transformed the Irish countryside. From 1946 to 1965, an entire generation were introduced to the electric light, kettle, iron, washing machine, refrigerator, and electric radio, to name just a few of the new appliances.


Environmental Research Institute University College Cork, Lee Road, Cork ,