Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Questions (145)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

145. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the criteria that apply for a partner to be considered a local community partner for the purposes of the renewable electricity support scheme; if he plans amending these conditions to ensure that a majority of the household directly affected by the development accept them as a local partner and that their direct area of operation covers the area that will be affected by the wind turbines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23766/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) supports communities in a variety of ways including via a mandatory community benefit fund for every project supported in the scheme. In addition, a community category has been created specifically to facilitate communities to develop their own projects. To ensure genuine community participation in this category, the definition of a community-led project for the purposes of the first auction within the scheme, included the stipulation that such projects were at least 51% owned by a Renewable Energy Community (REC). For future RESS auctions this will rise to a 100% REC ownership requirement for entry to the community category. RECs are established in accordance with a number of key underlying principles as well as aligning with community definitions laid out in the EU's Clean Energy Package. One such concept is that of open and voluntary participation. This includes the need to be open to all potential local members based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria. Furthermore, RECs are subject to the additional requirement that they are effectively controlled by shareholders or members that are located in the proximity of the project, which underlines the key role of local participation and decision making in the energy projects.

In order to ensure that communities may benefit to the fullest from the RESS, I have decided that future participation in the community category will be confined to fully community-owned projects. In order to ensure an adequate pipeline of such projects, an enabling framework of capacity-building supports is being developed by my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It includes a range of supports such as information dissemination, trusted intermediary and adviser services, and enabling grants.

However, I recognise that some communities may wish to partner with commercial developers who have experience of delivering renewable projects. These community-commercial partnerships will be able to bid into the larger commercial RESS auction where there is ample room for smaller scale projects.