The terms of an individual grid connection offer to the electricity network and the relevant charges are commercial matters between ESBN/EirGrid and the applicants and governed by the relevant regulatory policy as determined by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). Current grid connection rules are applied according to CRU’s “Enduring Connection Policy Stage 2 (ECP-2)” Decision Paper which introduced amendments to certain elements of the grid offer process for community-led projects to enable them to develop and connect to the network. The ECP-2 Decision Paper sets out the policy and rules for onshore grid connection for the next number of years and requires that community projects must pay the balance of the application fee prior to receiving a grid connection offer. When community-led projects are applying for grid connection they pay a €2,000 application fee deposit and successful projects with planning permission will then progress to a connection assessment. After the connection assessment is conducted community-led project with planning permission must pay the balance of the application fee in order to receive a connection offer from ESBN.
I have recently announced that community projects must be 100% community-owned to gain support in future auctions of the Government's Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). This means that communities will now be able to retain all the benefits that are associated with generating their own electricity. These benefits can provide a secure long-term financial boost to the community at large and allow reinvestment into the community's long-term sustainable future.
It is recognised that electricity generation is a complex task and especially so for communities. In that regard an enabling framework of supports and funding is being developed by my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland with details to be announced shortly. This should help to alleviate some of the issues that communities are having in the development of their own community energy projects. Officials in my Department will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including community groups, ESBN & CRU, to ensure that communities are enabled to fulfil their potential in developing community energy projects.