I will read the reply and then try to address the Deputy's questions.
The 2016 programme for Government and 2015 White Paper on energy recognise that solar PV has the potential to provide a community dividend, thereby enhancing citizen participation in Ireland’s energy future, and that it has the potential to contribute to meeting Ireland’s renewable energy and climate change objectives. While the White Paper identifies the long-term strategic importance of diversifying Ireland’s energy generation portfolio and, largely, decarbonising the sector by 2050, it does not set out targets for specific renewable technologies but rather provides a framework to guide policy between now and 2030.
My Department is developing a new renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions to EU-wide targets by 2030. The design of the new scheme has included an extensive economic appraisal which compared the cost of supporting solar PV, both rooftop and ground-mounted, and a range of other commercial renewable technologies, at various scales, 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. The analysis indicates that a number of renewable technologies, including solar PV, have converging and in some cases overlapping cost ranges and it is widely recognised that solar PV technology has become more cost-competitive for electricity generation over the past number of years, not only compared with other renewables but also compared with conventional forms of generation. I am keen for this new scheme to encourage the diversification of renewable energy technologies in Ireland while being mindful of the need to minimise the costs to consumers through the public service obligation.
I am well aware of the very strong level of interest in solar PV in Ireland due to its potential role in Ireland’s future energy mix and I have written to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, highlighting my view that planning guidelines will need to be developed. In this regard, officials from my Department are engaging with their counterparts in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.
In January, I announced a proposed pilot scheme for microgeneration that will target solar PV and self-consumption among domestic customers, which is due to commence this summer. Further details of this scheme will be made available when I have received a study being undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland into the likely uptake and demand for the scheme and have had an opportunity to consider its analysis.