23 June 2022
By Tom Collins
The recent decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant approval for the Celtic Interconnector Project has triggered the next steps for a Community Benefit Fund to be established in East Cork.
With onshore planning consents secured, SECAD Partnership CLG has now been appointed as the grant administrator for the €2.4 million Celtic Interconnector Community Benefit Fund.
The €2.4 million fund is the result of an enhanced Community Benefit Policy launched in 2021 by EirGrid, which recognises the importance of local communities in the development of the national grid.
The Celtic Interconnector Community Benefit Fund will be released on a phased basis as the project progresses – 30% at construction phase – 40% mid project and – 30% when the project goes live (when the line becomes a part of the electricity grid and electricity runs through it).
Under this initiative, a community benefit scheme is created in proportion to the scale of the project. The fund is supported by a community forum of local representatives, to ensure that the scheme is designed by the local community and will provide direct benefits to communities in the project area.
SECAD Partnership CLG, based in East Cork, provides rural development and social inclusion supports to aid local communities in creating a sustainable and inclusive society. It works with a range of stakeholders, including community and voluntary groups, disadvantaged groups, schools and private and social enterprises, as well as national and European projects.
As grant administrator it will work with EirGrid, the Celtic Interconnector Community Forum and other stakeholders, to shape the Community Benefit Fund strategy. The strategy will be shaped in line with EirGrid’s Community Benefit Fund Policy, community priorities and, where feasible, where other co-funding opportunities exist.
Funding streams for community benefit funding include community, sustainability and biodiversity, with projects that can range from enhancing community facilities, to the setup of a sustainable energy community or nature and biodiversity focused community projects.
Welcoming this next step, EirGrid’s Head of Public Engagement, Sinead Dooley said: “It is important to us in EirGrid that this community benefit scheme facilitates positive and long-lasting initiatives in communities and that the scheme is designed for the local community, by the local community.
“For projects to be sustainable, collaboration is key. The work of the grant administrator is hugely important in ensuring close collaboration with the community to maximise the opportunities this type of community benefit fund can open to them.”
The Community Benefit Fund strategy will be developed over the coming months and agreed between all parties before fund details are released.
The project received planning consents for the onshore elements of the project last month. Marine consents are awaited, with the construction phase scheduled to start before the end of this year.