John McCann outlines SEAI's methodology for LARES, which provides guidance to planners engaging with spatial planning for renewable energy. Engineers Ireland is hosting free training courses on key aspects of its implementation
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The planning functions within local authorities will play a key role in delivering Ireland’s renewable energy targets, particularly in identifying or zoning areas suitable for renewable energy projects and infrastructure and implementing appropriate permitting processes. In 2013, SEAI published a Methodology for Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategies (LARES) to provide guidance to local authority planners engaging with spatial planning for renewable energy.

To support the adoption of this methodology, SEAI has developed six training courses on key aspects of its practical implementation. SEAI has registered these courses as Engineers Ireland CPD training and is delivering the courses at Engineers Ireland and local authority premises.

On 12 December 2015 in Paris, the 21st UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP21) culminated in an historic agreement to combat climate change and implement actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future. The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to drive efforts to further limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action.”

Ireland is legally bound by Article 7 of the UNFCCC COP21 Paris Agreement, to prepare and submit periodic updates on its national adaptation and mitigation plans. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2016 requires the Government to produce a National Low Carbon Transition and Mitigation Plan. This will be Ireland’s first statutory low-carbon strategy for the period to 2050. Ireland currently has an overarching national target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% lower than the 2005 levels by 2020.

Ireland’s National Renewable Energy Action Plan and National Energy Efficiency Action Plan set out how we will achieve our individually binding national energy targets, of 16% contribution of renewable energy and 20% reduction of energy demand. Achieving these targets will, inter alia, require significant investment to redress the effects of inappropriate prior development and to put in place renewable energy infrastructure.

Ireland is developing the energy policies that will contribute to achieving both more ambitious 2030 EU targets and the longer-term COP21 commitments. The Government published the Energy White Paper, Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030, following extensive public consultation, in December 2015. The White Paper sets the context for the suite of energy sector policy instruments that will support development in the period from 2020 to 2030.

Spatial planning has a fundamental influence on future energy use. It can ensure that future planned developments of all kind anticipate the transition to the most efficient energy technologies, infrastructure and modes of use. It can also facilitate sustainable and responsible development of the renewable energy supply sector. Because spatial planning inherently defines the range of energy use choices, within the development pathway it prescribes, it can often ‘lock in’ future energy use for 50 to 100 years. To keep Ireland on a long-term trajectory towards decarbonising its energy use, the energy and emissions impacts of spatial plans must be subject to ongoing assessment and optimisation.

SEAI LARES methodology


SEAI LARES

CLICK TO ENLARGE: LARES development pathways and interactions

SEAI has developed tools to assist spatial planners in defining the spatial energy landscape of the future. One such spatial planning tool is the SEAI methodology for Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategies (LARES). The LARES methodology aims to facilitate consistency of approach in the preparation of holistic renewable-energy strategies, and to assist local authorities in developing robust, co-ordinated and sustainable strategies in accordance with national and European obligations. The methodology also aims to address common issues encountered with renewable-energy resources, technologies and projects.

The methodology defines the key steps to deliver a LARES, which are:

  • The Preliminary Phase, which clarifies the local need for a LARES and identifies whether strategic environmental assessment or appropriate assessment are required;
  • Step 1: The Policy Review, identifying all renewable energy and other relevant policies;
  • Step 2: Identify the Renewable Energy Resources and their potential for exploitation;
  • Step 3: Review the Constraints and Facilitators that might affect exploitation;
  • Step 4: Develop the Local Renewable Energy Policy.

The methodology provides an outline LARES structure and detailed guidance on executing each of the steps to complete a LARES. It also details the primary sources of information and data, relevant stakeholder organisations, and land-use interactions for renewable energy developments. The timing and scope of public consultation at key stages in the development of a LARES is also highlighted.

A LARES is not a stand-alone document. Rather, it should be integrated with other local authority plans and policies and may be incorporated within statutory development plans. Under the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, local and regional authorities voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives through publishing sustainable-energy action plans (SEAPs). It is recognised that, in order to embed SEAP energy targets in spatial plans, supporting tools, including LARES and spatial energy demand assessments, are required.

After supporting South Dublin County Council in developing its SEAP in 2013, SEAI provided a grant to the Council in 2014 to carry out energy-demand mapping to inform its LARES and to provide a basis for incorporating the SEAP within the County Development Plan.

The City of Dublin Energy Management Agency was contracted to develop the energy demand mapping methods and has since applied these to energy mapping for Dublin City Council and is carrying out similar exercises for other councils.

Training courses


To support the adoption of the SEAI LARES methodology, the organisation has developed six free training courses on key aspects of its practical implementation. The following LARES training courses have been registered with Engineers Ireland for delivery as accredited CPD training, with three free events left to run during September and October (see dates below):

  • Renewable Energy Policy, Resources and Conversion Technologies
    This course provided an overview of EU and national renewable energy policy and targets, the primary renewable energy resources and conversion technologies and the methods for carrying out a wide area resource assessment to support a renewable energy strategy. Two cases studies for a biomass and a sub-regional wind energy strategy are presented.
  • Renewable Energy Utilisation in an Urban Environment
    This course provided insights into the renewable energy resources and conversion technologies that are relevant in the urban context, the spatial planning and infrastructure considerations that facilitate their adoption and presents a number of case studies on key urban renewable energy technologies. An outline process for preparing an urban renewable energy strategy is presented.
  • Environmental Considerations for Renewable Energy Strategies
    This course provided an overview of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA) processes as they apply to the preparation of renewable energy strategies. The course will provide delegates with an understanding of the role of SEA and its outputs in developing a LARES and of the legislative context of SEA and its integration alongside AA within the LARES methodology. The course will provide practical insights of implementing SEA and AA within the process of developing a LARES and give examples from relevant case studies.
  • Planning and Implementing Community Engagement for Renewable Energy Strategies (16 September 2016)
    This course, which is set to take place on 16 September, outlines a participatory approach to renewable energy strategy development, highlighting the benefits of the participatory process and the techniques employed in its implementation. The course will inform delegates on the steps involved in preparing a consultation or participation plan for a renewable energy strategy. In 2016 SEAI commissioned two additional training courses to complement the original suite of courses, these are:
  • Energy Mapping for Spatial Energy Demand Analysis (26 September)
    This course covers advanced energy demand mapping techniques developed in the course of the SEAI-funded SDCC project detailed above. The course content includes the purpose of Spatial Energy Demand Mapping, examples of existing mapping, a step by step guide to creating energy demand map, the required data sources and tools, mapping of residential, commercial and municipality sector energy demand, overlapping other data and how the maps are used in planning.
  • Achieving Low Carbon Development through the Planning Process (3 October)
    This course provides insight of the interaction of building regulations with wide area plans such as County Development Plans, Local Area Plans and Strategic Development Zones. It will provide an understanding if the legislative background and emphasise the relationship between renewable energy considerations and thermal envelope design and the relevance of built form and orientation. It will also provide grounding in existing and emerging building energy standards that may impact on the built form.

This suite of courses is aimed at planners, local and regional authority staff, consultants and other professionals, who may engage with producing local and regional authority renewable energy strategies. The courses inform participants of the key processes in developing a renewable energy strategy and the supporting consultation process and environmental assessments. SEAI has registered these courses as Engineers Ireland CPD training and is delivering the courses in 2016 at Engineers Ireland and local authority premises. Click here for the schedule of upcoming courses at Engineers Ireland

John Mc Cann is a mechanical engineer with over 25 years’ energy-sector experience. His career has included working as design engineer and engineering manager for multinational companies supplying engineered equipment to the oil, gas, chemicals and power generation sectors. He is currently programme manager for wind energy and renewable energy spatial planning within SEAI. He has represented SEAI on the Grid Upgrade Development Programme Steering Group, the IEA Wind RD&D Executive Committee, the Wind Grid Code Consultation Group, the Wind Moratorium Monitoring Group, the All Island Grid Study Working Group and more recently the LARES Steering Group that guided the development of the methodology for Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategies. He is currently vice-chair of the IEA Wind RD&D Executive Committee. He was in charge of procuring and managing the 2013 remodelling of the SEAI wind atlas and developing the SEAI online GIS to incorporate this.

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The planning functions within local authorities will play a key role in delivering Ireland's renewable energy targets, particularly in identifying or zoning areas suitable for renewable energy projects and infrastructure and implementing appropriate permitting processes. In 2013, SEAI published a Methodology for Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategies (LARES) to...