Community groups to get chance to generate own energy
Local community groups will be entitled to a share of the profits if they take on renewable energy generation projects on their own or in conjunction with large energy suppliers, according to the Department of Environment.
Environment Minister Richard Bruton yesterday announced what he described as a "flagship" Government initiative to "de-carbonise our electricity grid, harness our natural resources and bring renewable energy into the heart of our communities".
The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) would replace the existing subsidy system for renewable energy suppliers.
For the first time, local community groups will be invited to take part in what will be an auction or bidding process to supply renewable energy that will be harnessed to the national grid in exchange for receiving guaranteed prices for the electricity they generate.
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That means that a collective of local community groups may invest in wind power projects, for example.
"Communities can either create their own projects for entry into the auction or co-operate with professional developers to realise projects in their area," a department spokesperson told the Irish Independent.
"In addition, all projects must offer investment opportunities to local citizens/communities.
"These opportunities may be in the form of preference shares or shared revenue instruments or any form of ownership/ benefit. We expect some innovation from developers in this area."
Under the scheme, community-led schemes will be allowed to generate up to 30 gigawatt hours of electricity.
Along with receiving a share of profits, local community groups will also be offered low interest loans, grants and the provision of advisers to get their projects off the ground.
The first auction is expected to take place in June next year.