Limiting solar’s share in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) to 10% is “disappointing”, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) has said, whilst welcoming the ambition shown in decarbonisation.
Whilst efforts to create a space for solar in the first auction of the scheme are a step in the right direction, limiting it to 10% is “disappointing”, David Maguire, chairman of the ISEA said in a speech addressing the Joint Committee on Climate Action last week.
Details of Ireland’s RESS were unveiled earlier this month, having first secured governmental approval in July 2018. It is designed to help the country reach 70% renewable energy by 2030, a goal the ISEA is welcoming for its ambition, but warned won’t be achievable without a major shift across all sectors. Currently, Ireland is running at 86% fossil fuels for its energy, making it a challenging target.
Chief among the ISEA’s concerns was the lack of a support mechanism for solar, with Ireland being the only EU member state without one in place. A fair price feed-in tariff (FiT) should be introduced for rooftop solar, and there should be a zero rate VAT for solar PV, Maguire suggested.
To remove barriers to solar, allowing it to contribute to reaching 70% renewables by 2030 goal, there should be more frequent annual auctions rather than the four proposed, which are to take place between 2020 and 2027.
Further action is also needed to lower the cost and time of connecting to and operating on the grid, as well as legislative change to allow for private wires across third party land and public roads, which would open up corporate PPAs and behind-the-meter generation at scale.
Other legislative changes being recommended for consideration include limiting qualification for planning appeal and making rooftop solar exempt from planning requirements.
If the right support mechanism is in place, the ISEA predicts up to 1.5GW of ground mounted and rooftop solar could be constructed by 2022, and between 3.5GW and 6GW by 2030.
The industry is “ready to deliver” with over 1.3GW of projects in Ireland with land, planning and grid connection offers and a further 1GW due to receive offers in the next 12-18 months.
The ISEA estimates that deploying 3GW of solar over five years would cost less than £16.8 million (€20 million) per annum over 15 years, or circa 80p (€1) per month on the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy, a government levy charged to electricity customers in Ireland.
“Last week the European Parliament voted to declare a climate emergency. The need to decarbonise our society and industry has never been more urgent,” Maguire said.
“With an incoming Commission that has set a European Green Deal and just transition as high priorities, it is likely that Ireland will face increasing costs if it fails to deliver on its targets and given it took 20 years to deploy 3.8GW we need a fundamental step change in our approach to renewable energy.”
The ISEA is supportive of the 30MWh target for community projects in the first RESS auction, but outlined that the €2 per MWh set aside for community funds should be invested in community energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, specifically rooftop solar for schools and community buildings.
It is also suggested there should be a standardisation of the local authority rates and development contributions applied to renewable projects, with the current system creating "a significant uncertainty" for upcoming auctions, and a national rate should be set for different technologies.