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Eighty-Two new renewable energy projects are set to go ahead after the government approved the results of the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Eamon Ryan T.D. today (11 September 2020), announced the final results of the auction which includes solar, wind and community energy projects.

Renewable electricity is a central element of our action on Climate disruption, ensuring that we are on a pathway to meet our ambitious climate targets. The RESS scheme not only clearly sets us on that pathway, but lays the foundations of a thriving and cost-effective renewable electricity market that supports the growth of the green economy, creates sustainable work opportunities, and ultimately benefits the consumer as the renewables become more and more cost-effective.

This RESS scheme will support investment in Ireland of over €1.4Bn and support the recovery by creating roughly 1,000 jobs. As part of the July Stimulus package, the Government allocated funding for green apprenticeships, which will be needed to support these investments and will provide a path for transition from brown to green for many Irish communities, particularly in the Midlands.

Speaking at the announcement today (Friday 11 September), Minister Ryan said:

“I am delighted to welcome the final results of the first auction under the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. The first RESS auction provides us with a platform for rapid deployment of onshore wind and solar projects at scale and at least cost, replacing fossil fuels on our energy grid. The results are very competitive and represent a significant saving on previous support schemes”.

Solar projects will play a critical role in diversifying our renewable generation portfolio for the period out to 2030.

“We have exceeded our target for Community projects participation. Seven communities are being supported to produce their own power and share in the ownership of Ireland’s energy revolution while inspiring others to follow. We expect that our next auction will have a higher share of community-based renewables.”

Five solar energy and two onshore wind community projects were successful in RESS-1. These projects are located across three provinces in counties Kilkenny, Galway, Mayo, Wexford, Clare and Cork. The projects will be owned in the majority by Communities and the revenues from their operation will be cycled back into those communities.

Speaking today at the announcement of the successful RESS-1 bidders, JP Prendergast, Chairman of the Claremorris and Western District Energy Coop, said:

“We are so proud to be putting a solar farm, which is 100% community-owned, on to what was once a dumping ground – turning it from a brown site to green. We hope we, in partnering with Mayo County Council and working with Community Power, can provide a model to other communities for what can be achieved. The big win for us here, because of RESS-1, is that it has given us credibility and empowered us. We can now show other communities just what is possible.”

Also speaking at the announcement, Gráinne Blount, Development Manager of Natural Forces said:

“The success of the community category in RESS1 has paved the way for communities to be involved in the energy transition with real community ownership of energy projects. Communities we are working with are hugely excited at the opportunity to own the energy projects where they live, they see this as an opportunity to improve the lives of those living in the community and for communities to create the future they want.”

The costs of wind and solar power are lower than ever and continue to drop due to efficiencies in the supply chain and technological improvements. The cost of these technologies in RESS are already getting closer to the wholesale electricity price and will frequently be lower than the wholesale price at a point in time. Wind and solar have very low operational costs associated with them. It has been shown both in Ireland and around the world that increasing the quantity of low operational cost generators on the system lowers the wholesale price.

The Programme for Government recognises the importance of community involvement in energy projects. The first RESS auction includes mandatory community benefit funds for all projects. The community benefit fund under RESS-1 will deliver approximately €4.5million a year to sustainable community initiatives targeted at those communities living in close proximity to the RESS-1 Projects.  The SEAI has already begun work on identifying priority projects.

Additional community policies and supports are specified in the State Aid including financial support for community-led projects, mandatory community benefit funds, investment opportunities for communities and citizens, and additional community categories for future RESS auctions.