Community support is vital to allow the renewable energy sector to achieve its full potential as an energy resource and in the process reach government policy targets. Renewable energy projects can bring significant benefits to the rural economy and the community where primary resources are located. They can create economically and environmentally sustainable enterprises and provide employment opportunities in rural areas experiencing agricultural decline. Other benefits include:

  1. A greater public acceptance of renewable energy projects (international experience has shown that this results in increased levels of uptake of renewable energy technologies).
  2. Potential investment opportunities and monetary reward for people living in rural areas.
  3. Assistance in the implementation of government policy goals and targets by helping to address such issues as increasing fuel security through use of local energy resources, increasing the rates of renewable energy generation and reducing carbon emissions.

To Catch the Wind

In 2004 the WDC published To Catch the Wind: The Potential for Community Ownership of Wind Farms in Ireland. The 2004 report included recommendations for policy change to allow more community involvement in the sector. One recommendation was that renewable energy projects that incorporate a substantial element of community ownership should be able to access specific supports – not only to expand the renewable energy sector but also as a means of promoting rural development.
You can download To Catch the Wind here.

Communities and Renewable Energy

In 2007 the WDC published Communities and Renewable Energy: A Guide as a follow-up to the 2004 report. This guide is a practical guide for communities interested in taking part in a renewable energy project. It also gives policy-makers and private developers an ‘insider’s view’ into what is needed to encourage community involvement and investment in the renewable energy sector. It outlines what happened when a private local developer and a community group in Co. Mayo came together to develop a project involving community investment in a wind farm.
You can download Communities and Renewable Energy here.

The WDC acted as project facilitator for this project and this role underlined the type of support necessary for community groups wishing to engage with private developers in renewable energy projects.