Current financial supports for large scale renewable electricity projects in Ireland are provided via the Renewable Electricity Feed-In-Tariff (REFIT) schemes, which support renewable electricity generated and exported into the national grid. Solar energy farms (Solar Photovoltaic (PV)) are not supported under any of these REFIT schemes and there is no tariff or grants for solar PV farm scale electricity generation at present. This reflects the historic higher costs associated with Solar PV in comparison to other renewable electricity technologies.
The new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) will deliver Ireland’s contribution towards our ambition to achieve 70% renewable electricity by 2030, contributing to the EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% out to 2030, within a competitive auction based, cost effective framework. The RESS will deliver a broader range of policy objectives including: the provision of pathways and supports for communities to participate in renewable energy projects and broadening the renewable electricity technology mix. The RESS will provide opportunities for cost effective solar energy projects, at scale, to participate in the diversification of our renewable portfolio.
The design of the new scheme has been shaped by the 2014-2020 EU State Aid Guidelines, which promote a move away from guaranteed fixed prices for renewable generators (as per existing REFIT feed in tariffs) to a more market oriented mechanism (renewable auctions) where the cost of support will be determined primarily by competitive bidding between renewable generators. The terms and conditions of RESS are currently being finalised and it is expected the first RESS auction will commence by the end of 2019, subject to state aid approval from the European Commission.
My Department already supports solar PV through the SEAI-led Better Energy Communities and pilot Deep Retrofit schemes and last year the SEAI launched a pilot support scheme for micro generation, targeting domestic customers and solar PV, with an emphasis on self-consumption and battery storage.