Power for the People
9 Mar 2020
Power for the people - Renewable Electricity auction now open for community energy
The first auction for the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS 1) is open for applications from today, Monday 9th March, with the first auction due to take place over the summer. It is the first time community led renewable energy projects will be recognised and supported in Ireland.
Over 3,300 Gwhrs of renewable electricity will be auctioned for all renewable electricity technologies in this auction, which is expected to deliver a 30% increase. Communities are encouraged to develop their own renewable energy projects through the separate community preference category.
Kate Ruddock, deputy director at Friends of the Earth commented,
“When a community or a group of citizens come together to build a renewable energy project through a co-operative structure it is powerful. Of course renewable energy displaces fossil fuels from the energy system so that is a huge benefit, but more than that, when citizens and communities are active participants there are so many other benefits too. There are lots of owners so the economic benefits are shared widely, local jobs are created and tend to stay local, and communities can start to count on an alternative income stream.”
“There is only one community owned wind farm in Ireland, Templederry in Co Tipperary. With this new scheme we hope to see many more community solar, wind and hydro projects developed over the coming years”.
Kate Ruddock continued,
“There are still significant challenges for community energy projects to connect to the grid, and for small scale generators to sell any of their power, however, this is a very positive step in the right direction for energy democracy”
Friends of the Earth are working with Community Power to support and enable communities to participate in building their own renewable energy solutions by building a community based virtual power plant.
A virtual power plant is a network of generators of electricity that join together to operate like a single power plant. The community-based version offers a community the opportunity to provide its energy needs with small-scale, distributed low-carbon technologies with participation from individual consumers, local energy co-operatives or companies, or SMEs. There are no new wires, or cables required. Communities and citizens can generate renewable power, the virtual power plant aggregates the power, and then distributes it back to its customers.
30 GWhrs of capacity will be auctioned separately in the Community Preference category designed specifically to support community led projects. To qualify for this category groups must demonstrate that at least 51% of the development is owned by the community, and 51% of all profits, dividends and surpluses derived from the RESS 1 Project are returned to the relevant community.
Significant economic benefits will also be available for communities in the proximity of new large wind energy developments in RESS 1 through a mandatory Community Benefit Fund which will be set at €2 per MWhr.
- The RESS terms and conditions are available to download from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment website at this link.
- Community-based Virtual Power Plant (cVPP) is an INTERREG North-West Europe project led by Eindhoven University of Technology. Eight Belgian, Dutch and Irish partners are taking part in the project that runs until 19 September 2020. The partnership receives a European subsidy of 3,663,205.49 EUR (60% subsidies) from a total of 6,105,342.53 EUR. In Ireland the partnership consists of Templederry Energy Resources Ltd, Tipperary Energy Agency, Energy Communities Tipperary Co-operative, Aran Islands Energy Co-operative, Claremorris and Western District Energy Co-operative, Community Power, Community Renewable Energy Supply, and Friends of the Earth. More information on the Irish partners at the Community Power website.
- As per the Terms and Conditions, a Renewable Energy Community means a legal entity:
(a)which, in accordance with applicable law, is based on open and voluntary participation, is autonomous, and is effectively controlled by shareholders or members that are located (in the case of SMEs or local authorities) or resident (in the case of natural persons) in the proximity of the RESS 1 Project that is owned and developed (or proposed to be owned and developed) by that legal entity;
(b)the shareholders or members of which are natural persons, SMEs, local authorities (including municipalities), not-for-profit organisations or local community organisations;
(c)for any shareholder or member (with the exception of “Sustainable Energy Communities” as registered with SEAI), that shareholder or member’s participation does not constitute their primary commercial or professional activity;
(d)the primary purpose of which is to provide environmental, economic, societal or social community benefits for its shareholders or members or for the local areas where it operates, rather than financial profits;
(e)in respect of which, each shareholder or member is entitled to one vote, regardless of shareholding or membership interest; and
(f)which is, or which has at least one shareholder or member that is, registered as a “Sustainable Energy Community” with SEAI