Greens launch Bill to empower community ownership of energy projects

November 2nd, 2017

A new Bill launched this morning by the Green Party aims to “empowers” communities to purchase up to 30 per cent of new local renewable energy developments.

The Community Energy (Co-Ownership) Bill 2017 aims to amend the Planning and Development Act to ensure that planning permission for renewable energy projects is only granted if local communities have the option to purchase 30 per cent of the development.

The Bill indicates that once the development becomes profitable, the local community who have invested in the project will begin to receive a yearly dividend share from the project.

Solar panels at Seldom Rest Farms Photo: US Department of Agriculture

The Bill also seeks to put guidelines in place for a community cooperative investment model to inform local communities of investment options available to them.

Pointing to the likes of the GAA and Tidy Towns, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan T.D. said that “Ireland’s strength lies in its community spirit”.

“Based on international evidence, the Green Party believe Ireland can be a leader on climate by enabling communities themselves to benefit from the transition to a low carbon economy, not just large private companies or multi-nationals,” he added.

European Models

The new Bill is based largely on the Danish Renewable Energy Act that legally requires at least 20 per cent of all new wind energy developments to be owned by local people.

Communities have been investing in wind energy in Denmark since the 1970s, and by 2013 between 70 and 80 per cent of wind turbines were owned by local communities.

Germany is another world leader in community energy projects. In 2014, 50 per cent of renewable generation, including wind and solar, was owned by local people.

Potential Benefits for Ireland

According to Green Party spokesperson for Energy, Gearóid Fitzgibbon, there is already an “appetite for community energy programmes” in Ireland.

In March 2017, the European Commission published a survey showing that 96 per cent of Irish people belie that our Government should increase its renewable energy targets.

Mr Fitzgibbon has worked with groups in Tipperary who have “leveraged almost €7 million in investment, upgraded over 700 homes, and supported over 100 local jobs” in the last five years.

The new Bill will encourage local communities to “become the drivers and beneficiaries of the transition to a low carbon energy system” Mr Fitzgibbon added.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, 85 per cent of Irish energy is imported and 91 per cent of this is from fossil fuels.

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