Power (and profit) to the People

Power (and profit) to the People

For decades the profits from the generation and sale of electrical power have gone into the pockets of large companies. But change is here in the form of Community Power. Transition Monaghan’s Dermot McNally investigated the potential and the all important prices of buying your electricity from a people owned supplier!

Community Power is Ireland’s first community owned electricity supplier.  They are a partnership of community energy groups working for a sustainable energy future for Ireland.  The initiative grew out of Ireland’s first community owned wind farm, Templederry Wind Farm in Co Tipperary and has now expanded to work with Irish communities to develop more renewable energy projects owned by people! They’ve been supported on their journey by the Tipperary Energy Agency, Friends of the Earth and Smart M Power and they’ve also been recipients of European funding.

Long Journey

But it has been a long journey for Community Power. Inordinate bureaucracy and difficulties securing support meant that it took almost 12 years to build their first, and only wind farm, and it has been operating from the foothills of Slieve Feilim since 2016. The two turbines are generating about 15 GWh of electricity every year, which is about the amount of electricity used by the town of Nenagh. Now they are buying renewable electricity from a handful of small and micro hydro and wind generators across Ireland and selling it to customers to use in their homes, businesses, farms and community buildings. This expansion means they are now working with Energy Community Tipperary Co-operative, Aran Islands Energy Co-operative, Tait House Community Enterprise, Claremorris and Western District Energy Co-operative to deliver the change they want.

The mission of Community Power is to support Ireland to run on clean, renewable power. Furthermore they also think ordinary people should also have a real stake in it, and own it for themselves.  They also point out that Ireland’s energy system is in crisis, with over 90% reliance on climate polluting fossil fuels (much of it imported) yet with many people struggling to pay high energy bills in cold homes. Community Power are deeply engaged in trying to break down the barriers that make community energy so difficult in Ireland. Last year they designed a project to put solar panels on schools which they knew would help draw attention to the ridiculously restrictive rules and laws enforced by every level of Government. Thankfully their initiatives are slowly but surely winning rights for community generators!

Community Buy in, Not Resistance

Wind and solar generation schemes have encountered resistance across Ireland for decades. And it’s little wonder – the projects rarely have substantial community engagement and even less local buy in. Locals remain suspicious of outsiders who often cut corners to increase profits without long term concern for communities or the localities in which they operate. Therefore a community owned approach ensures that the local community who live in the shadows of the wind farm or the solar farm are the ones who see some financial benefit. It’s a win win – less opposition, more buy in and quicker energy generation and profits. Of course we’re slow adapters compared to Germany where community energy is at the forefront of the renewable revolution and where almost 400 villages are energy independent. Prof Peter Beck of the Trier University of Applied Sciences in Germany is quoted as saying, “It’s a no brainer even without the climate crisis. You’re adding value, independence and development instead of sending your money away to oil and gas generating countries.” We could do with more of that here in Ireland!

Looking for Customers

Community Power is now in a position to take on new customers and their prices are competitive. Our home electricity was with Electric Ireland. We were on direct debit and online invoicing to get their best rates of 16.43cents / kw (ex vat) and Community Power beat which was excellent! See below.

Unit Rates Excluding VAT Including VAT
24hr 16.3 c/kWh 18.5 c/kWh
Day 17.5 c/kWh 19.86 c/kWh
Night 8.65 c/kWh 9.81 c/kWh

Community Power offer an everyday best rate and say they don’t run expensive advertising campaigns. Unlike the other utility companies Community Power avoid the gimmicky introductory prices only to jack up the rates later.

Community-Power-1 cows

So the future is bright for community owned power. If you are interested in learning more: check out www.communitypower.ie/

 

POSTSCRIPT:

HOW TO BECOME A ‘SUSTAINABLE ENERGY COMMUNITY’

A Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) is a community that works together to develop a sustainable energy system. To do so, they aim to;

  • be energy-efficient
  • use renewable energy
  • consider smart energy solutions

An SEC can include a range of different energy users in the community such as homes, sports clubs, community centres, churches and businesses. In this way, an SEC connects sustainable energy, local economic development and public wellbeing.

SECs are supported by SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland). Any group in Co Monaghan that wishes to become an SEC can avail of a new mentoring support programme. The support is coordinated in the border counties by the Institute of Technology, Sligo and delivered in Co Monaghan by Plan Energy. The County Mentors for Co Monaghan are Liam Murtagh and Gavin Forkan. During the COVID 19 emergency the support will be provided online and by phone. For further details contact Liam Murtagh at liam.murtagh@planenergy.ie or  tel 086 8130296.

 

Interested in Learning More?

Last week Friends of the Earth held a webinar on the topic of ‘Energy Democracy’ which was attended by 100 people!

Energy democracy is a political, economic, social and cultural concept that merges the technological energy transition with a strengthening of democracy and public participation. Energy democracy means that community residents are innovators, planners, and decision-makers on how to use and create energy that is local and renewable.

The panelists included Paul Kenny from Tipperary Energy Agency, John Fogarty from Community Power & Cliona Sharkey, Policy Advisor from Trócaire. It was chaired by our own Kate Ruddock, Deputy Director of Friends of the Earth and organised by Sian, FoE’s Education Officer. Watch the webinar here:

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