In July 2018, a new pilot scheme to support micro generation, initially targeting domestic self-consumption through a grant scheme for solar PV installation and battery storage was announced. The data gathered during the pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for micro-generation in Ireland that may be appropriate, as we align with the ambition and requirements of the recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has structured this grant support based on detailed analysis of costs and willingness to pay research, and the grant level (30-35% overall installation costs) is in line with other grants offered by the SEAI. The scheme will be subject to a six month review which will examine the uptake and the level of the grant, assess the costs associated with relevant technologies and explore opportunities for broadening the scheme as appropriate. The objective of the pilot scheme is to help build a sustainable, enduring micro generation sector in Ireland including setting appropriate safety and qualification standards for the industry.
Micro generation, including micro hydro technology, was appraised as part of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) economic assessment. The analysis identified a number of challenges that may need to be addressed before a financial support scheme (payment) for micro generation can be developed. These include a reform of network charges, an assessment of the distributional impact of such a policy decision on the PSO (cost burden sharing), and development of a fair tariff for exported electricity taking the benefits of self-consumption into account. This approach is in line with experience from other EU member states who have attempted to introduce supports for micro generation.
While I have no statutory function in the matter, I am aware that since February 2009 Electric Ireland had offered a feed-in tariff on a commercial basis to domestic micro generators, although they subsequently decided to close the scheme to new entrants from the end of 2014. More recently, Electric Ireland extended the tariff to their existing customers until the end of 2018. To date, no other electricity supplier has chosen to provide such a tariff, to either domestic or commercial customers, although they have been invited to do so by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). Data provided by Electric Ireland indicates that there are currently 8 micro hydro sites still contracted under this scheme.
Finally, projects utilising micro hydro technology (as part of a wider project application) are eligible to submit for funding under the SEAI-led Better Energy Communities scheme, details of which can be found here