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.
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