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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Irish people will soon be able to take a stake in local renewable energy projects

The government is developing a new support scheme to enable community ownership.

Image: Mat Fascione/Geograph

IRISH PEOPLE WILL soon be able to invest in and take ownership of renewable energy projects in their areas under a new government scheme.

Environment Minister Denis Naughten recently told the Energy Ireland conference in Dublin that his department is planning an initiative that will include “opportunities for community investment in all renewable projects”.

In a statement to Fora, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said that it will publish “a set of high-level principles for the new scheme next month”.

“The new (scheme) will be funded via the Public Service Obligation (PSO) mechanism. It will be subject to government approval and state-aid clearance, and is expected to open for applications in 2018.”

The department did not state how exactly the scheme will function, saying that the final elements of the initiative are subject to public consultation and have yet to be finalised.

The PSO subsidy is currently charged to all Irish electricity customers and is mainly used to fund the development of renewable energy and peat. It costs the average domestic electricity user about €80 a year, and the average small business user about €280 a year.

The energy watchdog announced last year that the levy was set to rise this year to help pay for more renewable energy developments.

‘Not just football jerseys’

In his speech at the Energy Ireland conference, Naughten said that the state is developing a new renewable electricity support scheme “to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030″.

The minister said that community ownership and benefit “will be key design principles of the new scheme”.

MIN NAUGHTON FOOD WASTE 5_90504944 Source: Department of Climate Action and Environment

“If a renewable project wants to be supported under the new scheme, paid for by all customers, it will have to meet community based criteria such as opportunities for community investment in all renewable projects,” he said.

“I am not talking about solar panels for community centres or football jerseys for local GAA teams.

“I am talking about citizens having the opportunity to invest in, and own, and financially benefit from, renewable energy projects, in their area.”

Neither the minister the department specified what types of renewable energy projects would be eligible, such as whether it would exclusively focus on wind or solar schemes.

Options

The Department of the Environment said in a statement that the new support scheme was being introduced for several reasons, one being “to deliver on policy objectives, such as Ireland’s 2030 renewable energy and climate change obligations”.

The country is currently facing a large EU bill for missing its 2020 renewable energy targets. It is one of only four members of the bloc expected to fall short on the agreed goals.

The department said the development of the support scheme would involve assessing “a range of technologies, their cost-effectiveness and whether supports are necessary to incentivise their deployment”.

“This analysis will then inform the development of a support scheme that provides certainty to developers, enables cost-effective investment in renewable energy (and) seeks to maximise value for money to the Irish consumer,” it said.

The Irish solar industry has long been calling for state support, and recently put forward a proposal to get communities involved in commercial solar projects through crowdfunding, with people potentially investing as little as €5.

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Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

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