Ireland has today set out a raft of clean energy policies and support mechanisms designed to reduce carbon emissions from its energy sector by up to 95% by 2050, with solar to play a central role.
The ‘Ireland’s Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030’ whitepaper, unveiled this morning by Ireland’s energy minister Alex White, outlines more than 90 policies which are to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a largely renewable-based energy sector in the country.
The country has an existing target of deriving 16% of its energy demand from renewable sources by 2020 but generated just 8.6% last year. A green paper released last year sought to seek ideas in which Ireland could reform its energy market, which has led to the publication of today’s whitepaper.
Ireland’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) has confirmed it will introduce new support frameworks for both utility-scale and microgenerators of renewable sources, including solar, early next year.
“The deployment of solar in Ireland has the potential to increase energy security, contribute to our renewable energy targets, and support economic growth and jobs. Solar also brings a number of benefits like relatively quick construction and a range of deployment options, including solar thermal for heat and solar PV for electricity,” the whitepaper states.
Its current support mechanisms – the REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 schemes – close to applicants at the end of 2015 and have been criticised for failing to properly incentivise renewable deployment.
Rates and included technologies are currently being investigated. The analysis, conducted by DCENR, will decide on which technologies will be incorporated under the support mechanism and their feasibility, however solar is explicitly mentioned as being under consideration.
DCENR is to also update existing support programmes to ensure the support is compatible with wholesale energy market reforms and ensure that grid connection policy is updated in order to enable utility-scale solar farms to be connected.
A Renewable Electricity Policy and Development Framework is to be published next year with the aim of introducing planning and development frameworks for ground-mount developments.
Alex White, who is to launch the whitepaper at an event at Dublin House later this morning, said that changes to a low carbon society are “not something to be feared”.
“In future years we will look back and wonder what took us so long. We will look on our old energy behaviours and realise that they were no longer sustainable. And we will recognise the positive benefits of our actions for the environment, for the reduction of greenhouse gases, and for addressing extreme weather events. This whitepaper will change the way we live, very much for the better,” he said.
The whitepaper follows a report published by Big Four consultancy KPMG which found that Ireland could support almost 4GW of solar by 2030 at a cost of just €670 million to the government. That support cost would however add more than €2 billion to the value of Ireland’s economy as well as supporting more than 7,000 jobs.
While there has been no indication as to the support rates Ireland will set, KPMG recommended an opening domestic FiT rate of €0.13/kWh, gradually degressing to €0.02/kWh in 2030. It also argued that large-scale deployments would require subsidies of €67/MMh in 2017, falling to €12/MWh in 2023 before being phased out entirely in 2030.