We at GEAI responded to the public consultation on the Design of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) launched the 04th of September 2017 by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
The consultation document contains an economic assessment of a new RESS in Ireland followed by an assessment on how to increase community participation and suggestion of a model. Our response focussed mainly on the section “providing pathways for increased community participation” and microgeneration.
In our view, micro-scale electricity generation is a very crucial step towards a low carbon transition. However, this vision seems not to be fully shared by the Department.
In fact, the RESS report states that “the relative cost of micro-generation is very high” and cites the example that domestic rooftop solar PV is 4100/MWh more expensive than large and medium solar PV in 2020. It then concludes that “meeting renewable electricity targets and renewable diversity ambitions are more cost effectively achieved at large and medium scale levels”. For the above mentioned reasons it is then proposed that “microgeneration would not be supported via the main RESS”.
We think this conclusion is based solely on economic grounds, which does not take into consideration the added value of getting the community’s goodwill and commitment to make the change to renewables.
Furthermore, rural areas play an important role in the transition towards a low carbon economy and community participation is the key of this process, mainly because it has the potential to revitalise rural areas through reskilling workers, creation of local jobs (e.g. installers, maintenance) that would keep workers in their communities and generating new income streams for businesses and farms.
A microgeneration support scheme would engage householders and farmer’s attention; it would introduce them to the possibility of change in their sources and uses of energy; it would make them more amenable to consider new ways of doing things.
In particular, if the individual feels that he/she is being supported to participate in the new world of renewables, this will make them far more amenable to support proposals for larger-scale developments such as wind farms.
Another consideration is that, despite some projects being designated as community-led under the scheme, the perception will remain that renewable energy projects are again examples of developers coming into a community and imposing changes on residents to “their” landscape that they have not agreed to nor want.
Where there is dissatisfaction, there will be active opposition. To win the hearts and minds of communities who already are opposed to wind turbines (for example) will take more than talk about community benefits; the better approach is to give them ownership of their own energy future.
At this stage, people know that we have to change the way we do things. A supported microgeneration scheme is the best way of allowing the change to start.
Read our full submission