What Member States should know when designing support schemes for energy communities: the example of Ireland
The Commission's 2014 Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection and Energy (EEAG) allow Member States (MS) to support the production of electricity from renewable energy sources (RES), subject to certain conditions. These rules aim to help MS meet the EU's ambitious energy and climate targets at the least possible cost for taxpayers and without undue distortions of competition in the single market. The recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) established an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030 and acknowledged the potential for renewable energy communities (RECs) to support the achievement of ambitious renewable energy targets.
In particular, the RED II requires MS to develop enabling frameworks in order to promote the development of RECs at national level. These enabling frameworks must include, inter alia, measures to ensure that the participation in the RECs is accessible to all consumers and make sure that tools to facilitate access to finance and information are available. Moreover, MS are required to take into account specificities of RECs when designing support schemes in order to allow them to compete for support on an equal footing with other market participants. While some measures included in MS’ enabling frameworks may implicate State aid, in most cases support schemes for RECs will need to get State aid clearance under the EEAG.
While some national renewables support schemes have taken smaller projects and RECs into account (e.g. Greece and Germany), there is very little experience in designing dedicated support schemes for RECs. Nevertheless, recently in Ireland the first support scheme tailored towards RECs was approved under the State aid guidelines by DG Competition. The Irish scheme serves as a great example of how MS can design a support scheme with specific measures for RECs that is in line with the current EEAG and is accepted by the European Commission.
The following analysis will identify the measures for RECs that were included under Ireland’s Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS), highlight factors that DG Competition took into account in positively assessing the scheme under the EEAG and provide some insights that MS can take into account in designing national support schemes for RECs in furtherance of their legal obligations under the RED II.
 Article 22(4) of the RED II.
 Article 22(4)(f) and (g) of the RED II.
 Article 22(7) of the RED II.
 The European Commission approved the Irish support scheme (RESS) under EU State aid rules with the Case SA.54683 (2020/N). From now on this case will be mentioned as ‘Case on Ireland'. You can find the case here: https://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/cases1/202032/286233_2178932_128_2.pdf.
 The current estimated budget for the RESS is between 7.2 and 12.5 billion EUR over 5 years.