The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is the main government support to help deliver on Ireland’s 70% renewable electricity target by 2030. A mandatory Community Benefit Fund must be provided by all projects successful in a RESS auction. These funds will be aligned to incentivise investment in local renewable energy, energy efficiency measures and climate action initiatives. The community benefit fund under the first RESS auction which was held last year will deliver almost €4 million a year to sustainable community initiatives targeted at those communities living in close proximity to the RESS-1 Projects.
My Department has already committed to the publication of a National Register and a Good Practice Principles Handbook by July 2021. This will lay out a range of principles, including guidance on how the new funds will be managed and administered and the need to ensure community participation in fund decision-making via the establishment of a local committee. My Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are now developing a draft of this handbook which will be made available for public consultation shortly with public webinars planned.
The first RESS auction also included a dedicated community projects category in which seven projects were selected for support. My aim is to ensure the delivery of some 100 community electricity generation projects by 2030. In future onshore RESS auctions, there will be additional capacity allocated to the community category and I have decided that only fully community-owned projects will be eligible.
In order to ensure an adequate pipeline I have allocated an additional €3 million in capital funding this year for the SEAI to stimulate locally-owned community energy projects. This funding will enable SEAI to deploy a range of capacity-building supports including information dissemination, trusted intermediary and advisor services, and financial supports; and I will announce further details of this enabling framework shortly.