Community energy is becoming increasingly to the fore in the UK and Ireland.
There has been a series of actions taken by government in relation to this
In the UK, the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the Community Energy Strategy on 27th January 2014. The Northern Ireland Executive was fully engaged in its development. DECC’s Community Energy Strategy identified a number of key issues facing community energy and has set out actions to address them. The issues include the role of partnerships; community capability and capacity; and evaluation and measuring impact.
The Strategy stated that ‘We expect that by 2015 it will be the norm for communities to be offered the opportunity of some level of ownership of new, commercially developed onshore renewable projects. We will review progress in 2015 and if this is limited, we will consider requiring all developers to offer the opportunity of a shared ownership element to communities.’
With the publication of the Strategy, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change asked an industry taskforce to work with the community sector and report back to him. The Shared Ownership Taskforce includes representatives from the renewables industry and the community energy sector who are working towards a voluntary approach to increasing shared ownership of new commercial onshore renewables developments. The Shared Ownership Taskforce recently produced its final report.
The Community Energy Strategy presents an important chance to maximise opportunities for communities in Northern Ireland, and make communities an integral part of energy policy alongside government and the private sector. DETI and other relevant departments are currently working together to produce a draft action plan on community energy.
This action plan needs to at least match what has been outlined in DECC’s Community Energy Strategy in order to advance community energy, by putting in place the necessary support and mechanisms in Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, the National and Economic Social Council recently produced a report in July 2014 entitled ‘Wind Energy in Ireland: Building Community Engagement and Social Support’. The NESC produced a series of recommendations including the call for the development of a Community Energy Strategy and an agenda which promotes community ownership.