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NESC publishes Report 139: Wind Energy in Ireland: Building Community Engagement and Social Support


Wind Energy in Ireland:  Building Community Engagement and Social Support

The social aspects of wind energy development are now essential in Ireland, as across Europe’ said Rory O’Donnell Director of NESC at today’s launch of their report on the key issues surrounding social support for wind energy.

Drawing on commissioned research—which looked at Germany, Denmark and Scotland—NESC points to three components for building social support which need to be integrated at a national policy-level:  (1) a national transition process that facilitates and guides society-wide efforts to transform energy systems away from fossil fuels; (2) effective public participation which helps to shape and share the local value that wind energy projects generate; and (3) the key role of intermediary actors and enabling organisations which support the problem-solving, entrepreneurialism and buy-in needed to drive renewable energy projects that serve the economic and social development of an entire local community. 

NESC outlines a number of tools for better community engagement and a participative process that can ensure that local value is identified and shared in a fair, open and sustainable way. This can involve shared ownership through equity share, community benefit schemes, energy efficiency measures and a range of options for discussion at community level.

In launching the report, NESC Director Dr Rory O’Donnell said ‘we believe that national policy should not be based on promotion of either developer-led or community-based renewable energy projects, but should shape a creative synthesis between the two. Each of these types exist and will figure in Ireland’s energy transition.  National policy needs to create a framework that, in the first instance, opens possibilities at local level, assists inclusive exploration of those possibilities and brings the resulting settlement onto a national process of benchmarking and learning’

He added ‘We believe that building social support is possible with appropriate measures, necessary to enable continued development of wind energy and energy infrastructure, and beneficial to Ireland’s energy transition and society, given the job potential, social and environmental benefits of a low carbon future’.


Note to Editors:

 Wind Energy in Ireland:  Building Community Engagement and Social Support

The National and Economic and Social Council examines how social support for the transformation of Irish energy, and wind in particular, can be better understood and achieved.  The Council makes the following recommendations:

i)           The policy framework underpinning engagement should include an energy transition process that is intentional, participative and problem-solving;

ii)         Tailored policies, supports and structures should be developed to: (i) support local authorities, particularly to develop enhanced community engagement in their forward planning process; and (ii) enable communities, through a Community Energy Strategy, to contribute to the energy transition process.

iii)       Participatory processes of community engagement should be required for all wind energy developments, such as the Renewable Energy Community Engagement process outlined here;

iv)        The substantive agenda around which engagement will occur should be shaped with communities and include a range of renewable energy and energy efficiency possibilities, as well as local value sharing mechanisms (from community benefit to community ownership);

v)          Renewable energy intermediary actors should be certified and resourced to enable and facilitate both the energy transition at a local level but also help to achieve community settlements;  and

vi)        A key central-level agency (such as SEAI) should be tasked to provide a learning network, to which locally negotiated plans and settlements would be linked. 

In 2013, NESC commissioned SLR Consulting (SLR) to examine the challenge of community engagement and social acceptance in Ireland and in three other jurisdictions: Germany, Scotland and Denmark.  Two SLR reports are published alongside this Council report:

(1) Wind Energy: International Practices to Support Community Engagement and Acceptance:  This includes a review of the literature, policy contexts and interviews with a range of experts, practitioners and policy advisors in Germany, Denmark and Scotland.

(2) Wind Energy: The Challenge of Community Engagement and Social Acceptance in Ireland[1]: This documents Irish processes and practices for achieving community engagement and acceptance of wind and grid projects and asks how key elements might work more effectively to support projects. The study includes five case studies.

Policy Context

The current Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland recognises building societal acceptance as one of several challenges in further deploying renewable energy (DCENR, 2014)[2]. It sets out ‘empowering energy citizens’ as one of six priority areas and points to the NESC report as a useful source for anyone wishing to make a submission as part of the public consultation process.

About the National Economic and Social Council

The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973. Its function is to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and the development of a strategic framework for the conduct of relations and the negotiation of agreements between the government and the social partners. The Council is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach. It comprises representatives of trade unions, employer bodies, farm organisations, community and voluntary organisations, environmental organisations, key Government departments, as well as eight independent experts.


Download Documents

To download the main report, executive summary and SLR reports, click here


For further information contact: 

Project Manager, Dr Jeanne Moore:

Mobile: +353 (0)85 1008181

Direct Line: +353 (0)1 8146366  

NESC Office: +353 (0)1 8146300


For information on SLR’s research contact:

Nick O’Neill, Director, SLR Consulting Ireland


Tel:      +353 1 2964667; Mob:            +353 872 311 069