Strengthening How Communities Engage With Energy
From firsthand experience of working in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland, it is evident that there is a growing appetite to become involved in community energy.
There is an increasing recognition in the sector that community energy has the potential to create significant social, economic and environmental opportunities for communities in Northern Ireland.
Community energy not only has the potential to help create a stronger sector, but also has the potential to help create vibrant communities. The skills and experience which people gain through getting involved in these projects, can help grow social capital and help communities make the most of their talents.
Community energy projects also offer an opportunity to help secure the long term financial sustainability of community organisations. This is particularly important to take into account given that many community organisations have a high dependency on grant funding.
It is therefore important that we put communities at the heart of energy policy and development. To date, the development of large scale wind energy projects has made and continues to make an important contribution to the achievement of government targets for renewable energy in Northern Ireland. Given continuing level of deployment of wind energy in NI, it is vital that the community engagement with communities that host these developments is strengthened. Where wind energy developments are advanced, it is crucial that communities are active partners in these developments and opportunities for communities to benefit are meaningfully explored through community benefit packages or community ownership.