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Power to the People Campaign Update

Posted by Claudia Tormey on February 22, 2021 at 05:34 PM

Upperchurch_School pic with logo in sky

Power to the People is our campaign to achieve the electricity-related key results of the Strategic Objective on emissions reduction, by putting citizens and communities at the heart of the transition to 100% renewable power.

We’ve made good progress on our campaign to change the planning regulations to allow solar panels on schools. Two weeks ago the Sunday Business Post reported that planning regulations would be changing to facilitate solar panels on buildings, including schools. We're continuing our campaign for legislation to seal the deal on this and make sure it happens. 

Councillors around Ireland have been supporting this too, and both Galway County Council and Westmeath County Council have passed motions recently supporting a change in the planning regulations.

Irish citizens and communities could finally getting new rights realised. From June small generators of renewable energy will be allowed to sell their excess energy to the grid - this has been blocked in Ireland for too long. Our Solar Schools project was designed to show just how unfair the system was, when the excess solar energy that schools generated went to waste. At first this excess energy was just generated at weekends and holidays but schools have been closed for months now due to COVID-19 and with that a lot of energy has been lost.

Recognising the value that small generators can add to our energy transition is hugely important and should allow for income to be spread across communities (like schools, farms and local authorities) and create an incentive for more people and communities to invest in renewables.

But the scheme to support microgeneration may only attract private homeowners. We want to make sure microgeneration is accessible to all - so we invited our supporters to join us in submitting to the Government's recent Microgeneration Consultation. In just a few days over 400 submissions were made via our e-action, calling on Government to take away restrictions proposed in the scheme. Thank you for taking action on this! We hope it results in a more inclusive scheme.

As well as putting solar panels on our winning Solar Schools, we’ve been running workshops with them on a Just Transition. We’ve been asking students what their vision for a clean and renewable energy system might look like, and how they think we might get there.

We want every school in Ireland to be a Solar School and to help make that happen our own Solar Schools have been calling on their local decision makers to commit to changing the planning regulations so schools don’t have to apply for planning permission (which takes a lot of time and costs a lot more money) for putting solar panels on their roof.

We are planning to host regional assemblies over the coming months to allow us to bring young people together with their local decision makers. We will be highlighting our Solar Schools and the renewable energy they are now running on. We will also be using the opportunity to call on our local TDs to take action to change the planning regulations and reduce the barriers to making a switch to renewable energy, taking us one step closer to our vision of every school in Ireland becoming a Solar School.

 

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