Co-operative based community and business enterprises have contributed successfully to the adoption of renewable energy production internationally, but this possibility has been largely overlooked in Ireland as there are several barriers inhibiting such projects – ICOS has stated in a submission to the Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources on the Green Paper on Energy Policy.

Due to the design of co-operatives, renewable energy co-operatives receive more community support than developer-led projects and ensure that profits are returned to the community. The Government, DCENR, CER, Eirgrid and SEAI should create and support policy in this area.

In its submission to the DCENR on the green paper, ICOS summarises its recommendations as follows:

  • Swift approval and implementation of a Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) for Ireland. (For example, a renewable heat support programme exists in the UK and in Northern Ireland).
  • Encouragement for the development District Heating Systems in Rural Communities
  • Promotion of the co-operative model for community owned wind production with turbines with < 500kw power
  • Reform of the REFIT (Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff) system to encourage small scale community wind projects with access to the grid
  • Increased interaction between SEAI and planning authorities to ensure better informed planning decisions and proactive planning policy development
  • Development of an accessible financing package for Renewable Energy (RE) projects
  • Increased availability of information for co-ops on Renewable Energy evolving technologies, increased knowledge sharing between publically supported RE projects and establishment of peer support programmes for start-up renewable energy projects
  • Support for intermediary actors to design and deliver training to help communities with setup, governance and policy understanding etc. involved with the start-up of community co-operatives
  • Facilitation of networks to encourage knowledge transfer between communities implementing RE projects

ICOS represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts – whose associated businesses have a combined turnover in the region of € 14 billion, with some 150,000 individual members, employing 12,000 people in Ireland, and a further 24,000 people overseas.