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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