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.

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