The Link Between Community & Renewable Energy Generation
Irelands communities are leading the way of change in answer to the climate emergency, particularly in how they influence energy, with the benefits of reducing dependency on fossil fuels, improving air quality, and creating opportunities to develop systems that can financially support sustainable initiatives identified through Energy Master Planning.
One such mechanism that can help accelerate this is through RESS, otherwise known as the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. According to the Programme for Government, the Climate Action Plan 2019, and the National Energy and Climate Plan 2021–2030, renewable electricity is a crucial component of Ireland’s response to challenging climate change. The RESS programme creates the groundwork for an affordable renewable electricity market while ensuring Ireland is on track to reach our ambitious climate commitments. As renewable energy sources become more affordable, this will help the green economy expand, create sustainable communities and jobs, and ultimately benefit consumers.
RESS was created to encourage Irish investment in the production of renewable energy. By 2030, Ireland has set a target of 80% renewable electricity and a 32% EU-wide target for renewable energy. These objectives will be accomplished with the aid of this efficient, competitive auction-based structure.
Communities are strongly encouraged to explore renewable electricity generation through the community component of RESS. This is with respect to projects ranging from 0.5-5MW in size. At 100% community ownership, this project is primarily designed to benefit the locality. Particularly in rural Ireland, the community commitments in RESS strive to support sustainable community energy initiatives. To facilitate this, a separate community category within the RESS auction exists to give a route to market for community-led generation projects. The first two auctions resulted in twenty-two community projects gaining support.
The Community Enabling Framework, which offers end-to-end support to develop a community energy project in Ireland, will have a significant impact on communities nationwide and is one of the major community provisions included in RESS.
The Department of Environment, Climate & Communications (DECC) has designated SEAI as the implementation organisation for this Framework, which offers a variety of supports, such as:
- Financial Assistance
- Community Support for Mentoring
To avail of the Community Enabling Frameworks supports, a community must first register as a Sustainable Energy Community. This can be done by first reaching out to your local County mentor, who will assist in this process.
On behalf of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, ORS act as the Regional Coordinators and County Mentors for the Midlands region, supporting communities in establishing Sustainable Energy Community committees, hosting workshops and events alongside providing technical support in energy-related areas such as domestic and non-domestic retrofits, renewable technologies, sustainable transport, grant funding etc. Our team of community energy engineers work with the respective local authorities, development associations, and energy stakeholders to support community-led sustainable development through SEAI, Just Transition and Community Benefit Funding from large-scale renewable energy sites such as wind and solar.
As part of a recent event, ORS community energy engineers organised a site trip to Templederry in County Tipperary, a 100% community-owned wind farm. A tour and information session was provided by Community Power and members of the local community included in the project, informing our SECs on the steps involved in Community Renewable Energy projects of this scale.
If you would like to find out more about Sustainable Energy Communities in your area or would like to learn more about many of the SEAI Community supports, please contact our Community Energy Engineer Laurence O’Reilly at firstname.lastname@example.org.