Donegal County Council

How do we know this information?

Donegal were one of the most professional and helpful councils with our Freedom of Information requests for the financial year 20/21.  For the 22/23 financial year we are currently accessing professional Legal and Accounting advice to craft a request based on the European Directive on Environmental information which mandates European public bodies to provide all environmental related information to be published to a fulsome extent, at no extra cost.  However Donegal provided all the information they had without us having to resort to the EU Directive on Environmental Information.

The Irish Department of Finance claimed it had none of the basic data needed to assess the financial benefits for Irish Councils transitioning to the new economy.  The Northern Irish Department of Finance had no problems supplying this information. Given the projected huge increase over the next 10 years in rates, corporation and Income Taxes, VAT and employment from renewables in Ireland, this is surprising. Especially given the significant improvement in the Nations balance of trade, energy security and long-term indigenous economic growth that will arise from this transition..

Fortunately Donegal  County Council was able to give us an insight into how the Central Valuation Office calculates the rateable value of cross-Council bodies like Eirgrid, ESB Networks and the National Gas Network.  Using the ‘Central Valuation List’ we can see how the 2023 commercial rates bill for ESB is €2,081,628 for Donegal only. This is based on a globally apportioned valuation figure for Donegal in the sum of €28,988 (see page 7 of central list)  which you then multiply by the ARV (Annual Rate of Valuation) for Donegal, which is €71.81, therefore 28,988 * 71.81 = €2,081,628. In a similar manner we can see that Eirgrid and the National Gas network contributes nothing to Donegal. Page 6 is Eirgrid, Page 7 refers to the ESB network and page 8 gas networks. Using this approach we were able to compute these rates for each Council as almost none were ale to supply thier data under FoI or AIE requests except Donegal.  See our research on this here  Tailte centrally calculated values.

Summary of Donegal

Like all Councils in Ireland, Donegal has no plan for the energy transition.

But unlike a lot of Irish Councils, Donegal  County Council had an ongoing energy efficiency program which it estimated to be an annual saving of 3,743,107 Kwh (TPR) which we have estimated to be worth € 636,328 but we are clarifying this.  Donegal County Council have an accredited energy management system and in recent years Donegal have completed some small scale renewable energy system projects such as photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps. There is no income associated with these projects as they are aimed at reducing bills.  The monitoring and verification process to determine annual savings is ongoing.

Also, unlike a lot of Irish Councils, Donegal was able to estimate their overall expenditure on heat, power and transport forms of energy at E4.5 million pa.

INCOME Overall, energy contributed over €6 million pa or nearly 17% of rates in Donegal. But this figure is probably higher as Donegal’s financial systems do not allow it to ‘see’ the rates contributed by most types of renewable energy systems. It is 9.24% to the total of rates and property taxes in Donegal.  This figure was overwhelmingly renewable but coding problems (see below) prevented us seeing what fossil fuel income Donegal is going to lose in the energy transition.

Like most Councils in the Republic, Donegal had no coding in its financial systems for any of the 9 types of renewable energy except wind farms, which provided the bulk of its overall property/rates income.  Unlike other Councils, Donegal  County Council was able to to suggest a way to fix this problem. They said “In 2022 The Valuation Office are embarking on a national Revaluation office for several counties including Donegal. This will update and revalue all rated properties in the county including rateable valuation and property classification, and may give a further breakdown of renewable energy properties, depending on the property classification assigned by The Valuation Office. This will be effective in Commercial Rates bills from 2023 onwards. To clarify while Donegal County Council is the statutory authority for the billing and collection of commercial rates it is The Valuation Office, and independent Government Department who determine and value all rateable properties.”  It is our intention to write to the Minister for Energy and Transport in the Republic Eamonn Ryan TD to highlight this issue. 

For instance, when we asked for the rates on the hydroelectric facility in Ballyshannon Donegal did not have the ability to separate this out from ESB’s grid network or its fossil fuel plant as the Valuation office had not coded the database correctly. So being able to assess projected gains and losses of rates to Councils in the Republic would be far more difficult than in Northern Ireland where its is so clearly laid out that a group of young people like us were able to work it out.

Northern Ireland can give the figures for Anaerobic Digestors, Biomass to Energy plant, Hydro Electric, Landfill Gas sites, Energy  pumped Storage or Lithium Ion battery farms,  Photo Voltaic installations >50kw, wind Farms and smaller on-farm or at-business-level turbines or other renewable installations over 50kw (eg 250kw stand-alone turbines). The Republic cannot do this.

Despite being one of the better Councils in the Republic, Donegal appears to have no plans to maximise the financial benefits to itself of the energy transition.  Given that ‘green energy jobs’ are forecast to grow to 125,000 in the Republic and 42,000 in Northern Ireland by 2030, a Council with a Geography like Donegal and with its its closeness to the NI Market might want to make a plan.  We aim to use the EU Directive on Environmental Information to question the Council’s Senior Management team on this in months to come.

See the breakdown summary of the Council here:

Annual €
Rates Income from Renewable Energy Projects € 3,415,189 million but possibly more (see above coding issues)
Income from Council’s own renewable energy €see below
Cumulative annualised savings from energy savings campaign €636, 328
Savings from the electrification of Council’s vehicle fleet n/a
Rates Income from fossil fuel/nuclear electricity plants € finance coding system issues
Rates Income from grid infrastructure and related plant €2,313,512
Total € 6,135,179 or more