Community Power is Ireland’s first community owned electricity supplier and is being developed and implemented as part of the Interreg NWE funded cVPP project.
Community Power is a partnership of community energy groups. It grew out of Ireland’s first community owned wind farm, Templederry Wind Farm, and is now working with Irish communities to develop more renewable energy projects owned by local communities and citizens.
A virtual power plant (VPP) refers to a cluster of dispersed generator units, controllable loads and storage systems, aggregated to operate as a unique power plant. Several VPP designs exist on the market developed by various organisations, however, implementation remained limited due to a top-down focus on technical parameters. The community-based version of a VPP takes a bottom-up approach and allows a community to play different and new roles in the energy system by becoming involved in the management, distribution and trading of self-generated energy.
The concept offers a community the opportunity to provide its energy needs with small-scale, distributed low-carbon technologies with participation from individual consumers, local energy companies or SMEs.
Community Power buys renewable power that is owned by communities, co-operatives or citizens, and sell it to customers. It is relatively unique in Ireland because it offers small to medium sized generators the opportunity to trade on the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM). All surplus electricity which they do not use can be sold into the electricity market through Community Power by entering into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
The development of the Community Power cVPP is funded by Interreg NWE, a match funding loan provided by Clann Credo (social finance provider) equity investment from community members (using dividends from a community wind turbine project) and the sale of renewable electricity to community consumers.
Evidence of success
Community Power successfully completed the qualification process governed by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to become a Large Supplier of electricity in the Irish market and now sells renewable electricity to citizens and communities across Ireland. Every euro spent and every kilowatt hour used facilitates the development of additional community owned renewable energy generation facilities while providing a meaningful ownership structure for communities and individuals.
In Ireland, prosumers and the concept of ‘energy citizens’ are not yet supported through national policy or legislation. As a result microgenerators (<11kw), small scale generation (<500 kw) and community led renewable energy generation projects are underdeveloped (>500 kw).
Potential for learning or transfer
Community Power’s approach offers the following benefits. They catalyse, part fund and project manage community owned, renewable energy facilities such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass. They provide communities with optional PPAs so they can sell their excess electricity, thereby improving their revenue stream from their power plants. They provide a meaningful ownership structure for communities and individuals to ensure that the surplus revenue generated stays in the communities, thereby buttressing the local circular economy. The long-term aspiration of the project partners is that in 10 years, the investments will stimulate the development of ca 50 new cVPPs in Europe, motivating environmental (450 KT CO2 emission reduction), social (4500 jobs) & economic (25000 houses with improved energy classification) effects that will proliferate further into the future. This replication will form the basis for the establishment of the EU cVPP network.
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