Coastal and marine communities are in line to benefit significantly from offshore renewable electricity projects. Under a new framework published by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, generators of offshore wind will be required to make substantial annual contributions to community benefit funds.
A key feature of the new framework, known as the ‘Community Benefit Fund Rulebook for Generators and Fund Administrators’, is that generators must start making contributions from the early stages of the offshore wind project, i.e., prior to commencing operation. This means that coastal and marine communities could start to benefit from as early as 2025 and could look forward to receiving benefits for up to 25 years in total.
Contributions to these funds will be determined by the amount of energy generated, with €2 required to be paid for every MWh of electricity generated over the lifetime of the support period. Given the anticipated high levels of offshore generation, the amounts involved are expected to be very substantial — approximately €4 million per annum from a typical 500MW offshore wind project, and almost €20 million per annum from all projects expected to deploy via the first auction for offshore wind under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1).*
The community benefit fund process has been collaboratively developed following extensive consultation with communities and industry. This has been supported throughout by the participation of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which will be providing a critical role in the monitoring and compliance of the funds.
This follows on from the November 2022 launch of the first offshore competition under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1). ORESS auctions in the coming years will procure further offshore wind capacity to reach our 2030 target of 7GW, while also maintaining community benefit provisions to ensure that hosting communities continue to benefit from the enormous potential of offshore renewable energy.
Minister Ryan said: “Local coastal and marine communities will play a central role in facilitating and supporting the development of Ireland’s offshore renewable electricity ambitions as a vital component in meeting Ireland’s commitments under the 2023 Climate Action Plan. In addition to the jobs, opportunities and business off-shore wind will help generate on-shore, this community benefit fund, built into the off-shore programme, ensures that community life and fabric more broadly can also be enhanced and supported.
“Never has it been more vital that we use our vast offshore wind resource to create renewable energy and ensure the security of our own energy supply. The development of our offshore wind energy capacity will eventually eradicate our dependence on imported fossil fuels and bring an unprecedented reduction in CO2 emissions for a climate neutral future.”
The rulebook sets out the basis of the working relationship between each generator and the professional fund administrator it must appoint to undertake the implementation of the fund for their respective projects. It provides details on how each fund must be established and conducted to be properly representative of the local community, including fishers, seafood culture, tourism, the wider blue economy, and maritime heritage. The fund administrator will undertake the day-to-day operation of the fund on behalf of the local community, while decision-making on the allocation of funds remains within the community itself.
Further information is available here.
*ORESS 1 is expected to deliver up to 2,500MW of offshore wind capacity. Assuming an average capacity factor of 45%, these projects will generate 9,855,000MWh per annum and €19,710,000 in community benefit contributions per annum.
Press release c/o Media HQ