Ownership is Key to Giving Communities a Real Stake in Energy Policy - new report

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18 groups call on Government to remove barriers to community energy

Expanding local ownership of renewable energy projects is key to giving communities a real stake in energy policy, according to a new report published today. The report, prepared by 18 groups working in the energy and community sector, highlights the very significant barriers to the development of community owned renewable energy projects in Ireland, and makes recommendations to Government to make it possible for communities and individuals to get involved in local renewable energy generation, distribution and energy efficiency projects. Minister Rabbitte aspires to create 'energy citizens' in the Green Paper on Energy Policy, but gives no indication how he will do this. Implementing these recommendations would be a great place to start. The report comes the day before The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) will publish advice to Government on ‘Wind Energy in Ireland – Building Community Engagement and Social Support'.

Kate Ruddock, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Friends of the Earth said,

“Communities all over Europe are creating projects where they own and are actively involved in running a renewable energy resource. This could be a wind farm near the area, solar panels on the roof of local buildings, a biomass fed district heating system, an anaerobic digester fed from local farms, or a collective insulation project, the list is extensive. In Ireland, there is a small but growing industry of community and transition groups. Unfortunately there are significant barriers which hinder the success of these groups and projects, and as a result community led or community owned renewable energy in Ireland represents only a tiny fraction of overall energy generation and potential. This paper lays out a direction for Government to take to change this. “

The report, which has been developed with practitioners, consultants, researchers, NGO’s and community groups working in Ireland and around Europe, outlines some of the main barriers to communities wishing to develop an energy project, and recommends specific necessary supports that the Government could provide. These include a National Community Energy Strategy, with targets and co-ownership models between communities, developers and local authorities, intermediary bodies to provide technical, practical and financial support to community groups, and recommends facilitating access to the National Grid, ensuring fair and secure payments for communities, micro generators and auto generators for all renewable technologies.

Kate Ruddock continued,

“At the moment a community wishing to install a solar project or a combined heat and power development do not get guaranteed payment for the renewable electricity they generate, or a community who want to install a wind turbine has no certainty that their development even can connect to the National Grid or get paid for the electricity they generate.”

Facilitated public engagement and public participation in national energy policy is also considered fundamental for the required energy transition, including workshops, public meetings and debates around the country. In Ireland, the Green Paper/White Paper process offers the opportunity for a national debate on energy policy, giving people the opportunity to play an active role in developing meaningful solutions to answer the big picture question on energy policy: How do we achieve security of supply, reduce fuel poverty and decarbonise our energy system in a way that is mindful of communities and the environment?

Click here to downloaded the report.

A 3-page Executive Summary, which is also in the full report, can also be downloaded separately

The 18 groups that are jointly publishing the report are listed on the cover, and include ACE Co op, Atlantic Coast Energy Co operative Limited, Comharchumann Fuinneamh Oileáin Arainn (Aran Islands Energy Co Op), Cork Environmental Forum, Ecologics Solar Makes Sense , Energy Co operatives Ireland, Energy Wise Consultants, Feasta, The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, Friends of the Earth, Good Energies Alliance of Ireland , LEAF, Collaborating for a Sustainable Future in Laois, MEGA, Micro Electricity Generation Association, MozArt Ltd Architecture Landscape Urban Design, Peoples Energy Charter, Syspro Systems for Progress Ltd, Tipperary Energy Agency, Transition Ireland Transition Northern Ireland, Waterford Energy Bureau, XD Consulting.

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