My Department is developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which is being designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030. The design of the new scheme has included an extensive independent economic appraisal. This appraisal compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies, at various scales including micro-generation, to ensure that the new scheme delivers value for money for energy users whilst also delivering on the energy pillars of sustainability and security of supply. A public consultation on the new Scheme, which closed in November 2017, resulted in over 1,250 responses which are being analysed currently. A cornerstone of the new scheme will be the provision of pathways for increased community ownership and participation in and benefit from renewable electricity projects in line with the 2015 Energy White Paper commitments. Communities and citizens are effectively being designed into the fabric of the new scheme and a comprehensive assessment of polices and support measures to underpin this ambition has been undertaken.
One of the highest ranking community measures proposes a separate ‘community-led’ category for projects that are initiated or majority owned by individuals or groups within the local community. I will also ensure that structures are put in place to support citizens and community groups, who may wish to develop their own project or participate in a developer-led project, overcome legal, financial and technical barriers to renewable electricity generation.
Micro generation was also appraised as part of the RESS economic assessment. The analysis identified a number of challenges that may need to be addressed before a support scheme for micro generation can be developed. Notwithstanding this, I am committed to further exploring opportunities for supporting micro generation, as I believe that micro-generation could have an important role in Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy, in assisting Ireland meet its renewable electricity targets, and increasing social acceptance of renewable energy projects right across the country.
In October 2017 my Department and SEAI hosted a workshop on micro generation which discussed a number of these challenges with relevant stakeholders. On foot of this workshop, I have asked the SEAI to conduct a short study to assess the likely demand for and impact of micro generation among the public. It is my intention to launch a grant aided pilot scheme this summer for solar PV micro generation initially targeted at self-consumption and for domestic properties. My Department will work with the micro generation sector and the SEAI to better understand how to validate and further develop these policies in a fair and cost effective manner.
Following on from the RESS public consultation and review, a final design proposal will be brought to Government for approval in the coming months, including the overall costs and technologies to be supported. Subsequent to a Government decision, a formal application for State Aid clearance from the European Commission will commence.