Update on our Power to the People Campaign
Posted by Deirdre Duff on July 22, 2021 at 04:56 PM
We want everyone to be involved in the renewable energy revolution! The energy of the future must be renewable but it should also be community owned! We believe that communities, schools and grassroots organisations should be supported to own, generate, use and sell their own electricity. Recognising the value that small generators can contribute to our energy transition is hugely important and should allow for income to be spread through communities, like schools, farms, local authorities - and create an incentive for more people and communities to invest in renewables.
We want every school in Ireland to be a solar school! We’re continuing to campaign for changes to planning regulations to allow solar panels on schools. We have held several meetings with politicians and engaged the Oireachtas Committee on Housing. Thanks to our efforts with members of the Oireachtas, we received confirmation that interim regulations will be produced later this year in order to facilitate solar panels on schools and to remove limitations for houses and businesses. In June, thanks to Friends of the Earth research and campaigning, a new bill was introduced to the Seanad to remove the planning restrictions for the installation of solar panels. You can read about this here.
We’ve also been running a series of Solar School Assemblies. We invited schools from across Ireland to participate in our online regional Solar School Youth Assemblies to share their visions for a sustainable future in Ireland. We were joined by Deputy Eoin Ó Broin who listened to students’ demands. Our Head of Policy Change, Jerry Mac Evilly, explored some of the challenges and opportunities for schools with the students and their role in a just transition to a decarbonized future.
We were also joined by Sinead Morgan, Campaign Officer with Concern, who explored the Sustainable Development Goals - focusing on clean and affordable energy (SDG 7) and climate action (SDG 13). Students shared their visions for what a sustainable school and energy system could look like. These visions were then shared with decision makers. We are planning another round of Solar School Youth Assemblies for October 2021.
Our director, Oisín Coghlan spoke about the importance of public participation and public ownership of renewable energy at an event about offshore energy in May which you can listen back to here or read an Irish Times article on it here. We also took part in an event with Patagonia to launch a new film about community energy which you can check out here - it’s an inspiring, uplifting watch!
Shaping the Electricity Grid
The rollout of the electricity network is key to Ireland decarbonising its energy system. We’ve been clear that this must not be about simply meeting the needs of large suppliers, like gas plants, or major users, like data centres.
We produced a detailed submission to EirGrid’s nationwide ‘Shaping Our Electricity Future’ consultation and participated in associated workshops. You can read the submission here. We highlighted that the rollout of large-scale offshore wind and associated network infrastructure must be a shared societal project, rather than a developer-led project. We also noted that an absence of public participation and public ownership, risks fundamentally undermining not only EirGrid’s network expansion but the state’s wider energy transition.
The new EirGrid strategy will be produced later this year. Friends of the Earth will continue to engage as part of EirGrid's stakeholder advisory committee.