EirGrid developed a Community Support Fund in order to provide compensation to local communities who are located closest to new transmission infrastructure. The fund recognises the importance of local communities and voluntary organisations aiming to address issues that those particular communities are facing and provides them with compensation in the form of grants.
The practice is applied to a specific geographical area surrounding any newly built transmission line. The fund is calculated based on the length and voltage of the new transmission line. In the case of the Mullingar-Kinnegad 110 kV line, the €360,000 fund was available to organisations within 2km on either side of the line which is 34km in length.
When the electricity grid is expanded, communities located close to newly built infrastructure may be affected. Recognising the importance of supporting these local communities can be vital for a project’s successful implementation. This is why, in January 2014, EirGrid developed the Community Fund initiative. This was introduced after a consultation process where EirGrid listened to public feedback.
Through the Community Fund, EirGrid delivers and will continue to deliver long-lasting benefits to affected communities by granting financial support to organisations that address relevant local issues (employment, education, improvement of local facilities, energy efficiency initiatives). The benefits of such an approach have already been seen. Not only has feedback from these communities resulted in improving the developed approach, but the development of this practice has also encouraged a change of mindset within EirGrid, acknowledging that building trust with affected communities and establishing open and transparent communication are key to increasing public acceptance of grid infrastructure projects.
EirGrid, the Irish TSO, developed the practice over two years in cooperation with the Community Foundation of Ireland (CFI) and in close communication with the Irish Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Irish Energy Regulator, representative and membership bodies. The Community Fund is now part of EirGrid’s company policy, and it will be made available for any new transmission infrastructure project.