Power for the people – Renewable Electricity auction now open for community energy

The first auction for the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS 1) is open for applications from today, Monday 9th March, with the first auction due to take place over the summer. It is the first time community led renewable energy projects will be recognised and supported in Ireland. Over 3,300 Gwhrs of renewable electricity will be auctioned for all renewable electricity technologies in this auction, which is expected to deliver a 30% increase. Communities are encouraged to develop their own renewable energy projects through the separate community preference category.

Power for the people - Renewable Electricity auction now open for community energy
Vistors from Dingle on a recent visit to Templederry Community Owned Wind Farm

Kate Ruddock, deputy director at Friends of the Earth commented, “When a community or a group of citizens come together to build a renewable energy project through a co-operative structure it is powerful. Of course renewable energy displaces fossil fuels from the energy system so that is a huge benefit, but more than that, when citizens and communities are active participants there are so many other benefits too. There are lots of owners so the economic benefits are shared widely, local jobs are created and tend to stay local, and communities can start to count on an alternative income stream.” “There is only one community owned wind farm in Ireland, Templederry in Co Tipperary. With this new scheme we hope to see many more community solar, wind and hydro projects developed over the coming years”. Kate Ruddock continued, “There are still significant challenges for community energy projects to connect to the grid, and for small scale generators to sell any of their power, however, this is a very positive step in the right direction for energy democracy” Friends of the Earth are working with Community Power to support and enable communities to participate in building their own renewable energy solutions by building a community based virtual power plant. A virtual power plant is a network of generators of electricity that join together to operate like a single power plant. The community-based version offers a community the opportunity to provide its energy needs with small-scale, distributed low-carbon technologies with participation from individual consumers, local energy co-operatives or companies, or SMEs. There are no new wires, or cables required. Communities and citizens can generate renewable power, the virtual power plant aggregates the power, and then distributes it back to its customers. 30 GWhrs of capacity will be auctioned separately in the Community Preference category designed specifically to support community led projects. To qualify for this category groups must demonstrate that at least 51% of the development is owned by the community, and 51% of all profits, dividends and surpluses derived from the RESS 1 Project are returned to the relevant community. Significant economic benefits will also be available for communities in the proximity of new large wind energy developments in RESS 1 through a mandatory Community Benefit Fund which will be set at €2 per MWhr.  

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