The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is the main Government policy to help deliver on our objective of up to 80% renewable electricity by 2030. The RESS supports communities in a variety of ways, including through a separate category for community projects and a mandatory community benefit fund for every project supported in the scheme.
The Climate Action Plan includes a target for at least 500 MW of renewable electricity to be supplied by local community-based projects, meaning approximately 100 community projects will be needed to meet this ambition. In order to ensure such a pipeline of community projects I have allocated €2 million in capital funding in Budget 2022 to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). This funding will enable SEAI to deploy a range of capacity-building supports including an information warehouse, trusted intermediary and advisor services, and financial grant supports, all of which are vital to support community-owned RESS projects development. Some of this enabling framework is already in place with additional elements to be delivered in early 2022.
To ensure genuine community participation for future RESS auctions, only projects 100% owned by a Renewable Energy Community (REC) will be eligible for the separate community category, ensuring that all of the benefits of the project stay in the local area. The REC definition employed in RESS was derived from the REC definition provided through the EU’s Clean Energy Package, with particular reference to Article 22 of the recast Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001. Accordingly, a REC must be open to all potential local members and its primary purpose should be to provide environmental, economic or social community benefits for the local areas where it operates, rather than financial profits.