Communications with DCENR with the launch of the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland

May 12th 2014

Dear Minister

Please find enclosed a copy of an email sent to officials at your department yesterday. 

The People’s Energy Charter is a network of groups and non governmental organisations with an interest in Ireland’s energy. We are calling for comprehensive public participation in  the development of Ireland’s energy policy, plans and projects as is our right protected by the Aarhus convention. A list of affiliated groups is attached.

Greater thought, effort and resources must go into public participation at development and planning in the early stage to ensure it’s acceptance upon delivery. As part of this process I draw your attention to annex B of the attached email and our draft working principles:

Community Engagement

Draft Working Principles

Recognising:

  1. that educating and engaging the community sector is a fundamental pre-requisite to our common aim of decarbonising the energy system and economy and reducing energy demand as rapidly as possible;  
  2. that this is a medium-term process that requires multiple perspectives to optimise outcomes;
  3. that there is a need to build relationships and mutual understanding that will enable relevant actors to be co-creative; 
  4. that there is a need to build skills and capacity to assist actors on all sides to break out of set patterns and evolve new responses;
  5. that the process of educating and engaging the community sector needs to be resourced realistically to attain our common objectives.        

We agree the following working principles to govern our work together:

  1. All aspects of our work are open and transparent;
  2. We operate on the basis of a shared purpose; 
  3. We focus on listening in our engagements to fully understand (i) what the other is saying and (ii) his/her context;  
  4. We seek to build ‘win win’ outcomes;  
  5. We act in a manner that builds trust;
  6. We creatively explore new modes of engagement and learn from what works/doesn’t work ;
  7. We agree that we can hold each other to account based on these reference principles and understandings.

We feel that working within these principles will enable all parties to engage in a meaningful and committed way to Irelands energy transition.

We respectfully request that you endorse this overall proposal and make whatever resources you can spare, including staff committed to public participation, available so ensuring it’s success. 

Your sincerely 

Theresa Carter May 12th 2014

 

The People’s Energy Charter is currently supported by the following groups and NGO’s:

CEF – Cork Environmental Forum is a not-for-profit local agenda 21 organisation that promotes sustainable development in County Cork.

COF – Claiming our Future is a national non-party-political civil society network that comprises individuals and organisations from a broad range of civil society sectors. Established in 2010, we aim to make real the values of equality, environmental sustainability, participation, accountability and solidarity. 

FOE – Friends of the Earth Ireland campaigns for environmental justice and sustainability. We believe in sustainable development – meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. 

GEAI – Good Energies Alliance Ireland works through research, advocacy, education and campaigning to influence public opinion and decision-makers in Ireland against on-shore unconventional hydrocarbon development and towards practical policies on energy sources and uses that respect the environment, the planet and people.

Kilcommon and Upperchurch Wind Awareness Group

LEAF – Laois Environmental Action Forum Regional Transition Hub addressing the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and economic contraction. Raising awareness, networking and supporting environmental stewardship and true sustainability in Laois.

LEN – Laois Environmental Network consists of current and past environmental representatives in Co Laois working together on policy and issues relevant to their respective boards – Laois Partnership Company, County Development Board, Environment and Planning Strategic Policy Committee.

POW – People Over Wind are a community group who are concerned with the size and scale of proposed wind farm developments in the Midlands area and the serious negative impacts on both residents of and visitors to these areas.

Presentation Justice Network Ireland is part of an international network through the International Presentation Association (IPA) which has contacts in 26 countries where sisters, associates and co-workers collaborate on issues of justice and human rights. The Network has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and a full time representative at the UN.

Ratheniska, Timahoe, Spink Substation Action group

Formed in 2009 in response to Eirgrid’s proposed Coolnabacca Substation and new 400 kva and 110 kva power lines. Concerned citizens seeking to participate.

TINI – Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland is affiliated to a worldwide initiative building community resilience to face the effects of climate change, peak oil and economic contraction. Transition originated in Kinsale, Co Cork and there are initiatives located throughout Ireland, networked through TINI.

Transition Kerry – Southwest Transition Hub is part of a local, national & international initiative. It is making an effort to get local communities to think about making themselves more resilient, in response to three major challenges in our world: Climate Change, Peak Oil and Economic Change. Transition is about creating awareness and networks to ensure that local sustainability is at the core of all actions and decisions made at local, national & international levels.

Wind Aware Ireland are working to change our Governments flawed policy on wind energy. We believe all wind energy projects and associated grid development must prove they are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable before we proceed with any further development of this sector.

 

The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 27 environmental non governmental organisations, are currently voting on a decision to work in conjunction with PEC to pursue comprehensive public participation in Ireland’s energy policy. 

 

Sent by email on May 11th 2014:

Dear DCENR official,

At our meeting with you and your colleagues on 2nd April it was agreed that PEC would come back to you with suggestions for developing effective public participation in Irish energy policy. 

In furtherance of this we believe that it is important that we build common understandings and working principles as foundations for what is likely to be an ongoing learning journey between Government and civil society as we develop a culture of mutual trust and constructive engagement in pursuance of a common purpose – transition to a decarbonised country. Set out in the attached as a basis for discussion and further elaboration are:

  • A set of draft common understandings which we discussed when we met – Annex A
  • A set of draft working principles to inform our process – Annex B;
  • A prototype consultation process to get the ball rolling – learning by doing – is set out in Annex C.
  • Some information on wider engagement processes (which we will expand on later) that can be brought to bear in pursuing this work – Annex D

Mindful that the Green Paper is about to issue it is worth reiterating the views we expressed at our last meeting that the ‘written submissions’ consultation process  envisaged for this is entirely inadequate to the needs of the times we are in. We are hopeful that DCENR will revisit this and demonstrate a willingness to explore ways for a more meaningful engagement with civil society, not just for the future, but in relation to the Green Paper process itself.

Fresh Thinking on Public Participation

The transition to a decarbonised economy presents a systemic challenge and the response needs to be multi-layered and systemic in nature. As with the Constitutional Convention a major learning is the need to prime the process with information/education that allows participants to be as fully informed as possible about the issues involved. This entails realistic resourcing. 

As you will be aware NESC are doing important work on the question of public engagement and some of our group have been in consultation with them on the topic. We believe their input could be very valuable as we seek to craft a way forward in this new territory of  embedding community engagement.  They could also be a possible partner in seeking funding under category 4 of section 5 of the SEAI’s Energy Research, Development & Demonstration (RD&D) Programme. 

We believe it’s important to make progress in a constructive and pragmatic manner as quickly as possible.  Can you suggest dates that would be suitable for a meeting and we will canvass availability of people to attend from PEC and the Environmental Pillar, who have committed to engage with this process.  The suggested agenda for such a meeting is to agree the understandings and working principles to inform the process of engagement and to discuss how to make concrete progress in developing the process itself. 

I look forward to hearing from your shortly.

Yours sincerely,

 

Annex A

Community Engagement 

Draft Understandings

  1. Communities must be involved in planning
  2. Energy efficiency must be a priority
  3. Renewable energy needs to be developed to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels – security of supply
  4. Fuel poverty needs to be addressed, guided by the principles of equality
  5. Climate change and other environmental issues must be addressed
  6. Security and reliability of energy supply.

 

Annex B

Community Engagement

Draft Working Principles

Recognising:

  1. that educating and engaging the community sector is a fundamental pre-requisite to our common aim of decarbonising the energy system and economy and reducing energy demand as rapidly as possible;  
  2. that this is a medium-term process that requires multiple perspectives to optimise outcomes;
  3. that there is a need to build relationships and mutual understanding that will enable relevant actors to be co-creative; 
  4. that there is a need to build skills and capacity to assist actors on all sides to break out of set patterns and evolve new responses;
  5. that the process of educating and engaging the community sector needs to be resourced realistically to attain our common objectives.        

We agree the following working principles to govern our work together:

  1. All aspects of our work are open and transparent;
  2. We operate on the basis of a shared purpose; 
  3. We focus on listening in our engagements to fully understand (i) what the other is saying and (ii) his/her context;  
  4. We seek to build ‘win win’ outcomes;  
  5. We act in a manner that builds trust;
  6. We creatively explore new modes of engagement and learn from what works/doesn’t work ;
  7. We agree that we can hold each other to account based on these reference principles and understandings.

 

Annex C

Fresh Thinking on Community Engagement

  • Intention: Commence a consultation about the shape of future consultation process; [Questions for consideration: 1.Presumably we should consider the Green Paper as a suitable background subject for this prototype?  2.  Presumably the ‘why’ of renewables (need to decarbonise enegy/economy) needs to be addressed as a first step in any conversation about renewables given the current state of significant resistance to the whole question of wind energy etc?  3. What questions would DCENR want to add?]
  • Invitation: DCENR and the Environmental Pillar/PEC jointly convene a workshop  ‘Fresh Thinking on Public Participation in Energy Transition’; [Question for consideration: do we need anyone else as part of the ‘calling team’? 
  • Invitees: Those involved in the renewables sector, interested NGO’s, NESC and broadly based community organisations such as the GAA, Irish Countrywomens Association and the National Youth Council. [Question: Who would DCENR wish to see participate in this prototype consultation? Caveat: There will be challenging voices some of which may deny reality of climate change and the need for renewables – so processes will need to  be robust to handle strong differences.]
  • Format: (i) begin with some brief presentations on a few models from elsewhere;  (ii) World Cafe process (engaged conversation) around the principles we would want to take from that to be effective in Ireland; (iii) Open Space process to facilitate conversations designed to progress the whole field of public participation in Energy Transition forward.  NOTE:  We can come back with a clearer pro-forma structure once we have fleshed out the questions posed above and any other questions you want to add to the mix.

 

Annex D

Methods for Engaging the Public in the Transition Debate

Reflecting the complexity of the Transition challenge new methods are evolving to capture the intelligence that is to be found in multiple places and perspectives in the population at large. Many of these are emerging from governments and academic institutions and allow inter-alia for simulations.  I don’t have a comprehensive list of references to hand but will revert with same.  In the meantime following is a small sample: 

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Meeting between PEC and DCENR April 2nd 2014 notes

People’s Energy Charter

 

Meeting with Dept Communication, Energy and Natural Resources

April 2nd 4pm. Final notes

 

Attendance:

PEC

  • Aedin McLoughlin – Good Energies Alliance Ireland
  • Fand Cooney – LEAF Laois Environmental Action Forum
  • Kate Ruddock – Friends of the Earth Ireland Policy
  • Martin Hawkes – Burren Beo Trust
  • Phil Kearney – Chair of the taskforce for Public Participation with UNECE
  • Theresa Carter – Coordinator LEAF Regional Transition Hub

 

Dept

  • Alan Duggan – Energy Export
  • Errol Close –  Renewable Energy
  • Rebecca Minch – Assistant Principal Officer (Renewable Electricity)

 

Apologies:

Emer O’Siuchru

Mairead McCabe

 

Focus of this meeting:

“Commitment to and explore a collaborative, community focused, long term Energy Transition Plan ETP with Comprehensive Public Participation CPP”

ETP or Fuinneamh Feasta as SLR call it in NESC proposal.

 

The over arching considerations were proposed by PEC as below.  DCENR noted that it agreed with the points raised but had a wider set of criteria requiring consideration in the context of energy policy.

Throughout this process we must keep in mind our base assumptions –

  1. Communities must be involved in planning
  2. Energy efficiency must be a priority
  3. Renewable energy needs to be developed to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels – security of supply
  4. Fuel poverty needs to be addressed, guided by the principles of equality
  5. Climate change and other environmental issues must be addressed

DCENR highlighted the crucial importance of maintaining security and reliability of energy supply as being an additional matter of critical public interest that must inform this process.

 

On foot of the IPCC report release earlier in the week it was raised and we all agreed that there is greater urgency to transition to sustainable energy systems.

 

Some insight into the upcoming green paper process was provided:

A green paper is written to begin the process of writing a policy white paper. This base document which is currently being drafted is expected to be circulated within government for review within the next 5-6 weeks approx. following which it will be made public for consultation. This will follow a written consultation process.

The question was asked – Where do all the branch policies, bio-energy, wind, export etc, fit into the national energy policy – upcoming green paper?

 

It was explained that the energy policy paper doesn’t stand in isolation. The White paper sets out a framework for overall energy policy.  Subsequent policy development in the intervening period between white papers will have regard to the White paper, overall Government policy and any new requirements  arising. It is expected that the new energy policy white paper will be finalised towards the end of 2014.

 

Concerns were raised by the PEC delegation that this is clearly a top-down process, that 3 months is insufficient to mobilise real public participation and that effective participation will be crucial to achieving the objectives of any energy policy. The PEC delegation referenced current widespread public objections to the existing energy policy and some examples were given. The PEC delegation highlighted that this revision of the energy policy is an opportunity to rebuild support for the energy plan within communities but is also a risk period if public participation is perceived to be ineffective or omitted. It was emphasised that we are all interested in a successful outcome to the energy policy process as it impacts on us all.

 

It was also highlighted by the delegation and generally accepted by all that awareness raising and education were important to the participation process. The public very often need to be skilled up to engage effectively. DCENR noted that as part of the recent Stage 1 consultation on the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework, both an information document and a summary document had been provided to support consultees in introducing themselves to the topic and the material.  The PEC delegation noted that some of the organisations it represented had organised events to help people understand and engage in consultations.

 

The representatives from the Department of Energy were very open to suggestions as to best practice in public participation, to ensure that statutory requirements continue to be met in full and limited public resources uses optimally. They agreed that the current system, while improving, can be improved upon, including understanding how local and national representatives and groups could support public consultation. The Stage 1 energy export policy consultation was cited as a recent example. Under this consultation, documents were issued to both the public and the local authorities (LA) in a similar manner. Statutory consultees received a letter advising them that the documents are available for comment.  Media and social media notifications were used to raise awareness.  Copies of the documents were issued to planning authorities requesting that a hard copy be kept in the authorities buildings to facilitate public access.

 

The delegation outlined some suggestions as to how participation could be approached based on recent experience E.g. The constitutional convention was suggested as a relevant mechanism, also the round table facilitated workshop approach that was taken by the People’s Energy Charter in September 2013 in Laois was cited as another example.

 

The Department officials highlighted that any process would need to take into account the limitations of available resources within the department. It was agreed that a follow-up meeting would take place in approx. 4-6weeks.

 

Energy efficiency was raised as a key point that needs to be addressed as part of any energy policy. The Department officials that were present at the meeting indicated that energy efficiency was outside of their remit. As such, it is suggested by the delegation that a representative of the energy efficiency section of the Department be present at the next meeting.

 

Actions:

The PEC delegation agreed to present suggestions for developing effective public participation at the next meeting. The delegation undertook to provide feedback based on the recent energy export policy consultation – on this note, we would request that a definitive website address be provided for the information to be reviewed or that it be forwarded by email to ensure that we are all reviewing the correct documentation / webpage.