Thursday, 3 June 2021
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Renewable Energy Generation
227. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 145 of 11 May 2021, the details of the requirement that renewable energy communities must be effectively controlled by shareholders or members that are located in the proximity of the project with regard to the renewable electricity support scheme; the distance criteria used to gauge proximity to the project; the proportion of the REC membership must be located in the proximity of the project; if there are any minimum requirements on the number of members an REC can have; if the aforementioned rules and criteria will continue to apply under the revised 100% community-owned arrangement announced by him in February 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30360/21]
To ensure genuine community participation in the separate community category of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), the definition of a community-led project for the purposes of the first RESS auction included the stipulation that such projects must be at least 51% owned by a Renewable Energy Community (REC). For future RESS auctions this will rise to a 100% REC ownership requirement for entry to the community category.
The REC definition employed in RESS was largely derived from the REC definition provided through the EU’s Clean Energy Package, with particular reference to Article 22 of the recast Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001. Accordingly, under the definition adopted in RESS a REC must to be open to all potential local members based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria and must be effectively controlled by shareholders or members that are located in the proximity of the project, which underlines the key role of local participation and decision making in the energy projects.
Proximity is not defined in the recast Renewable Energy Directive, which is currently in the process of being transposed into Irish law. I am not inclined to define proximity through the transposition process underway in recognition of the fact that no two communities are alike. Flexibility as regards proximity will allow local communities to define their own boundaries as appropriate to them.
Similarly, there is no defined minimum requirement in respect of the number of members a REC can have, as long as the primary purpose of the REC is to provide environmental, economic or social community benefits for its shareholders or members or for the local areas where it operates, rather than financial profits.