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The Good Practice Principles Handbook (Handbook) is specific to RESS 1 projects and provides guidance and recommendations on how to comply with the ‘Community Benefit Fund’ requirements contained in the RESS-1 T&Cs. It notes that “All other guidance and recommendations are suggested as ‘best practice’ but are not mandatory for the purposes of compliance with the RESS-1 T&Cs.”

In the case of any conflict or inconsistency between the RESS 1 Terms and Conditions and the Handbook, the RESS 1 Terms and Conditions with prevail. However, it is recommended that the Handbook should be followed by RESS 1 Projects to demonstrate compliance with the RESS 1 Terms and Conditions as a failure to comply with the community benefit fund requirements may result in termination of RESS 1 support.

1 - Community Benefit Fund

All projects under the RESS Scheme are required to set up a Community Benefit Fund (Fund). This Fund ensures that some of the benefits of renewable energy generation are shared with local communities. The Fund must be worth €2/MWh of generation. This means there are real and quantifiable funds being made available annually for the benefit of the local community. For example, this approximately works out as:

  • For a 10MW wind farm, the Fund is expected to receive approximately €60,000

  • For a 50MW wind farm, the Fund is expected to receive approximately €300,000

  • For a 5MW solar farm, the Fund is expected to receive approximately €8,000

  • For a 50MW solar farm, the Fund is expected to receive approximately €80,000

How the Fund is to be divided

The RESS 1 Terms and Conditions stipulate that the funds contained in the Community Benefit Fund shall be distributed for the duration of the relevant RESS 1 Project’s RESS 1 Support as follows on an annual basis:

  • In respect of Onshore Wind RESS-1 Projects, a minimum of €1,000 shall be paid to each household located within a distance of a 1 kilometre radius from the RESS 1 Project

  • A minimum of 40% of the Funds shall be paid to not-for-profit community enterprises whose primary focus or aim is the promotion of initiatives towards the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • A maximum of 10% of the Funds may be spent on administration. This is to ensure successful outcomes and good governance of the Funds. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is launching a National Register of these Funds which will ensure appropriate reporting and transparency. This is vital because the Funds will result in the movement of hundreds of million euro. The Developer must submit an annual report to SEAI on the conduct and activities of the Funds over the preceding year. These annual reports will be made publicly available via the SEAI’s Register. These reports will also cover the sustainability mission of the Fund and help create a record of the impacts of the Fund within the community over the lifetime of the RESS Project.

  • The balance of the funds shall be spent on initiatives successful in the annual application process, as proposed by clubs and societies and not-for-profit entities. In respect of Onshore Wind RESS 1 Projects, part of the balance will also go towards “near neighbour payments” for households located outside a distance of 1 km but within a distance of 2 km from the RESS 1 Project.

The Handbook considers each of these requirements in detail and provides some helpful clarity and guidance:

“Near Neighbours”

  1. The RESS 1 T&Cs reference near neighbours as two bands - those living within either 1km or 1-2km of the RESS Project. It is suggested that the distance specified is from the base of the nearest turbine to the nearest part of the structure of the occupied residence the location of which is identified in the An Post geo-directory. This does not include the likes of outbuildings.

  2. Near neighbour payments should be based on the principle of one payment per occupied dwelling. For example, holiday homeowners are not classified as near neighbours.

  3. Near neighbours should be one adult per household

  4. From a policy perspective, the intent is to seek appropriate, rather than disproportionate recompense of near neighbours. There is an acknowledgement of a risk of these payments consuming too large a portion of the fund.

  5. Residents receiving lease payments from the Project are not assumed to be near neighbours. However, those in receipt of easements agreement are assumed to be.

Sustainable Development Goals

  1. A minimum of 40% of Funds is to be paid to not-for-profit community enterprises whose primary focus or aim is the promotion of initiatives towards the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  2. Fund committees are encouraged to consider the SDGs as indicative, rather than prescriptive. There is every opportunity to undertake a holistic and creative response to the interpretation of the goals. However the primary aim should be to support sustainable energy and climate action initiatives.

  3. It is suggested that part of the fund could be used to assist the development of community projects which could ultimately participate in future RESS projects as wholly owned local community projects

2 - Who can apply for funding?

The Fund is open to individuals, and not-for-profit groups like community and voluntary groups, charities, social enterprises, clubs and societies. Entities are preferred over individuals in general - this is to reduce the administrative burden associated with too many individual funding awards. Therefore, individuals could engage with others in their community and form a group application. However, this is not to say that funding will be excluded for individuals, as there may be worthy individual initiatives within a community.

Funding decisions

Each application received by the Fund will be evaluated according to the criteria set by the Fund Committee. Among the relevant criteria for this assessment are:

  • Project location

  • Evaluation of the potential impact of the proposal on the local community. A developers’ reports on potential impacts must be provided to the SEAI.

  • Feasibility of the proposal including timelines and costs

  • Contribution of the proposal to sustainability and social inclusion - extra weighting should be given to sustainable and energy efficiency proposals, and

  • Longevity of benefits and the legacy impact of the initiative on the local community

All funding decisions will be decided by a scoring mechanism comprising relevant factors such as those above and it will be agreed by the Fund Committee in advance. The highest scoring applications will receive the funding.

3 - RESS Communities Steering Board

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan also announced the RESS Community Steering Board (the Board). This Board has been established to help drive the strategic development of renewable energy production in local communities. The Board will advise on all elements of community participation in RESS including capacity-building and community-owned generation projects. The Board will advise on maximising outcomes so that the Funds remain relevant and fit for purpose over the lifetime of the RESS Projects. This will help to create a lasting legacy within communities. The Minister notes that these funds will predominantly benefit rural areas is crucially important in ensuring that those who are most impacted by our transition to a greener energy system receive the greatest benefit.

The Board brings together a panel with expertise in the fields of renewable energy and in community engagement. The Board will have members from:

  • Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications – policy

  • Commission for Regulation of Utilities – grid policy

  • ESB Networks – grid delivery

  • EirGrid – grid delivery

  • Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland– implementation

  • Department of Rural and Community Development– community advocate, Government

  • County and City Management Association – community advocate, Local Government

  • Energy4all – community energy advocate, Scotland, and

  • Seven representatives from the Academic and Community Sectors


The publication of the Handbook is to be welcomed in many aspects. It will help to facilitate positive relationships between local communities and developers and provides developers with clarity on how it should implement and administer these funds. However, guidance around allocation of the €2/MWh of generation community benefit fund for RESS 1 is the low hanging fruit in terms of policy related to community involvement in renewable electricity projects.

The most recently published draft RESS 2 Terms and Conditions has still not tackled the planned citizen investment scheme long mooted by the Government. The implementation of the commitments to community energy in the Programme for Government, which includes providing citizens and local communities with the machinery that they will need to get involved in their own renewable electricity generation projects and initiatives, still has significant distance to travel.

For more information, contact a member of our Energy team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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