The Irish Government in the middle of transposing the EU directive provisions on energy communities and there are currently several gaps. However, their first step in the process was the creation of the a support scheme tailored to allow for participation by Renewable Energy Communities, and in particular ‘community-led’ projects, which are defined by the scheme. These definitions are also utilized to provide some advantages for RECs that want to obtain a grid connection. The Government is currently consulting on the transposition of the rest of the provisions. This assessment looks at elements that have either been finalized or proposed as a result of these processes. Autonomy and openness are covered but not elaborated in detail, although autonomy is expressed in terms of one-member-one-vote. Furthermore, there is a strong expression of effective control in the renewables support and grid connection schemes already developed. The fact that a registered Sustainable Energy Community must be both a member and associated with a project also helps ensure local/citizen representation. Geographical proximity is also dealt with in a satisfactory fashion, although it could be more flexible to different activities of RECs, even though it does positively acknowledge the various roles that energy communities can undertake. The Regulator’s proposal for a registry to monitor RECs will also help prevent abuse and ensure trust. Lastly, the Regulator has expressed a clear conception of the relationship between RECs and CECs.
Criteria of EU definition reflected in national definition
The Irish Renewables Support Scheme (RESS) includes a definition of REC, a legal entity which:
- Openness and voluntary are covered
- Autonomy is covered
- Effective control is covered – effective must reside with shareholders or members that are located (n the case of SMEs or local authorities) or resident (in the case of natural persons) in proximity to a RESS 1 project that is owned and developed (or proposed to be owned and developed by the REC
- To be a REC, at least one shareholder/member must be registered as a “Sustainable Energy Community” with the SEAI
Level of detail in the elaboration of principles contained in EU criteria
- Autonomy – each shareholder/member is entitled to one vote, regardless of shareholder or membership interest
- Eligibility – must be natural persons, SMEs, local authorities, not-for-profit organisations, or local community organisations
- Effective control and proximity – to be a community-led project, the project must be at least 51% owned by a REC either by way of (1) direct ownership of the project’s assets; or (2) direct ownership of the shares in the generator. Furthermore, at least 51% of all profits, dividends and surpluses derived from REC projects must be returned to the relevant REC
For proximity of RECs generally, the Regulator proposes different geographic boundaries for different activities, although for RECs it prefers a connection of same distribution that a physical asset of the REC is connected to (38 kv); whereas CECs would not be limited in terms of geographic proximity
Clearly defined purpose
Primary purpose must be to provide environmental, economic, societal or social community benefits for members/shareholders or for local areas where it operates, rather than profits – very similar to the EU definition, although it elaborates societal benefits.
ICA cooperative governance principles reflected
Yes to the extent they have adopted the principles contained in the Renewables Directive.
Legal entities allowed
Citizen participation is ensured
No; however, a Sustainable Energy Community must be as be associated with a community-led project in order for it to qualify. Hence, local citizen representation is covered at least by proxy.
Designated authority to oversee
Ministry, along with the Regulatory Authority under the RESS Scheme; The regulator also asks whether it makes sense to establish a register for monitoring purposes.
Number of definitions
1 (finalized under RESS) 2 (being consulted by Regulator)
Coherency between both definitions
In its consultation, the Regulator states that it sees RECs as a subset of CEC.