Ireland's Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) Qualification Application deadline has been extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Auction qualification commenced 9 March 2020 and was originally due to close on Thursday 2 April 2020, but has now been extended to Thursday 30 April 2020, the Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) announced. This will allow companies wishing to participate more time to organise.

The decision was made in light of the “unprecedented challenges being experienced by RESS applicants” due to COVID-19.

Ruth Young, training consultant at Cornwall Insight Ireland, said that the extension will come as little surprise due to the “significant challenge that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis poses for RESS participants and EirGrid alike”.

“Concerns such as getting necessary documentation, including Director declarations, has been made apparent to the department. Not to mention the significant challenge that any community-led project would have had in organising an application with current social-distancing advice in place.

“EirGrid have indicated that auction timelines will shift as a result, with dates to be updated and notified to participants in due course. Given the four week extension for the prequalification window, Cornwall Insight Ireland estimates an auction is now likely to be held in July or August rather than June.”

DCCAE added that a revised auction timetable will be published no later than the 30 April 2020, on the state-owned electricity transmission operator EirGrid’s website.

The RESS has been a long time coming, after a consultation was conducted in 2017 and it secured governmental approval in July 2018. It is intended to help Ireland reach its 70% renewable energy by 2030 goal, a big shift for the country that currently relies on fossil fuels for 86% of its energy.

Young added: “Given the time it has taken to get to this stage in RESS, some may be frustrated with the delay. However, this is an unprecedented event, so a delay of this nature seems sensible and certainly, some participants will be very glad to see this announcement.”

Details were announced in December 2019, outlining that the first auction will be held early in 2020 and will be for up to 3,000GWh of electricity. At least 1,000GWh of power is to be contracted for.

If solar were to snap up 10% on the auction, somewhere in the range of 100MW – 300MW can expect to be contracted.