Western Development Commission Leads 3 County Delegation to visit Community-led Renewable Energy Projects in Germany

 

  • 31% of total renewable energy production in Germany owned by its citizens compared to 0.14% in Ireland.
  • Western Development Commission is hosting a conference on December 11th to discuss the lessons learned from both Denmark and Germany regarding community owned projects within the renewable electricity auction process.
  • Mayo, Clare, and Leitrim represented on EU project visit.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) along with communities from the West of Ireland joined others from Norway, Sweden and Finland recently in the Aller-Leine-Tal region of Germany to explore best practice community owned renewable energy projects. This was the second trip that was facilitated through the NPA funded Local Energy Communities (LECo) project. While in Germany the team were hosted by the German Renewable Energy Agency and visited community owned wind farms, an electric car sharing energy co-operative, a community owned biogas plant and a range of energy efficient building upgrades. One of the key learnings for the group was to see first-hand how local communities are raising the finance required to bring a multitude of renewable energy projects to fruition and how this could be replicated for rural areas in the west of Ireland.

Dr Orla Nic Suibhne, LECo project officer with the Western Development Commission stated that “Germany is leading the path with community owned energy and this was an excellent opportunity to learn first-hand how to bring these projects to a financial close, and also how renewable energy can be a significant economic factor in rural areas.”

The Aller-Leine-Tal region has experienced greater added value in agriculture and forestry, more tax revenue from energy incomes, additional wealth locally as the energy is produced domestically and not imported from abroad, an increased number of local jobs in the sector and more income from land leases. It’s worth noting that there is an extremely low opposition rate to solar PV and wind farms, with almost 31% of total renewable energy production in Germany owned by its citizens compared to 0.14% in Ireland.

WDC CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said ‘these EU projects and visits help to inform the conversation about climate change and renewables in Ireland at a time, when the state, local authorities and citizens are all trying to find methods to make the most efficient use of limited resources while also reducing carbon emissions.’

The renewable electricity market in Ireland is about to fundamentally change for communities with the introduction of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). As part of this new auction based scheme, there will be a ring fenced capacity for 100% community owned projects from 2020 onwards. There will also be an opportunity for citizens to purchase and own shares in new renewable projects. Whilst the final RESS details from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE) are due next month, the following supports are anticipated for communities:

  • 10% of auction capacity allocated to community owned projects.
  • Supports in place for communities such as: technical assistance, planning assistance, risk free financial assistance for possible applications, independent advisors etc.
  • Priority grid access for community owned schemes.

Joe Lowe, Head of the Leitrim Local Enterprise Office, who also attended the study visit on behalf of the Local Authority, stated “This was a fantastic opportunity to see how community owned energy projects can participate in the energy transition, and we are looking proactively at similar opportunities in Sustainable Energy Communities within the County”.

As a direct result of this visit, the WDC are organising a conference in the Raheen Woods Hotel, Galway on December 11th to discuss the lessons learned from both Denmark and Germany regarding community owned projects within the renewable electricity auction process. The conference will be chaired by Paul Kenny CEO of the Tipperary Energy Agency and will feature speakers including Craig Morris Renewable Energy Agency Germany, Dr Louise Krog Aalborg University Denmark, Enda Gallagher Dept. Communications Climate Action & Environment, Ian Kilgannon Gas Networks Ireland, Xavier Dubisson XD Consulting and Prof Jerry Murphy and Dr Richard O’Shea, MaREI centre, ERI, UCC.

Tickets for the conference are free and guests can register HERE through Eventbrite.

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For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact 

 

Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications

 

allanmulrooney@wdc.ie or +353 87 334 3713

 

 

ABOUT LECo

  • LECo is a 3 year, €1.95m project, that aims to bring together the combined experience, knowledge and expertise of the project partners and provide conditions for the creation of energy self-sufficient Local Energy Communities.

 

ABOUT THE WDC

  • The WDC is a State agency established under statute to foster and promote the economic and social development of the Western Region (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare).
  • The work of the Western Development Commissionfocuses on investment, lending, regional development and policy analysis.
  • LookWest.ieoffers an overview of business activity and life in the Western Region including an up to date jobs platform.
  • The WDC is leading on The Atlantic Economic Corridor initiative. The AEC is an initiative to attract investment, support job creation and improve the quality of life in the West from Kerry to Donegal. This includes the Enterprise Hubs Project which is a 3-year project to create an interconnected community network from the 101 hubs identified as either operating or in development, in the AEC region.

 

About the investment Fund

  • The SME Investment Fund provides both equity investment and loan finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across a range of sectors.
  • The Community Loan fund provides term loans and bridge finance to community projects and social enterprises in the Western Region.
  • The Creative Industries Micro-Loan Fund is open to sole traders, partnerships, businesses, co-operatives and groups operating in the creative industries sector, and provides loan finance ranging from €5,000 to €25,000.
  • The Western Region Audio-visual Producers Fund (WRAP) is a Regional Fund committed to strategic investment to support film, television, animation and games.