Thursday, 4 July 2019

Questions (7)

Brian Stanley

Question:

7. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans for a microgeneration scheme; and the role he envisages for the Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017 in the plan. [28306/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Communications)

My question is on the Minister's plans for microgeneration. How will my Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill fit into his plans? The Bill has completed Second Stage and a report is due on it.

The climate action plan launched last month sets out Ireland's 2030 ambitions and puts the State on the right trajectory to meet net zero emissions by 2050. The plan provides that a support payment for excess electricity generated on site and exported to the grid will be available to all microgenerators by 2021 at the latest. ESB Networks and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities will assess potential implications for the distribution network of higher penetration of microgeneration by the end of 2019. Furthermore, my Department will establish a working group to set policy objectives which, in turn, will lead to the detailed design of the support scheme. The annexe to the climate action plan contains the detailed actions, timelines and associated responsibility to ensure delivery.

To ensure fairness to microgenerators and energy consumers, there are a number of issues that need to be considered and addressed in developing a scheme for microgeneration. These include a reform of the network charges, an assessment of the distributional impact of such a policy decision on the public service obligation levy, PSO, and the development of a fair tariff for exported electricity taking into account the benefits of self-consumption. This approach is in line with the experience of other EU member states which have attempted to introduce supports for microgeneration.

The microgeneration pilot scheme, launched last year and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, is being reviewed and the costs of installation are being assessed. The data gathered during this pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for microgeneration that may be appropriate, as we align with the ambition of the recast renewable energy directive, which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers. The Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017 was not opposed by the Government. The Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment has held a number of hearings into this issue in recent months.

I hope the Bill is not opposed by Government. I first introduced it in 2017 but it has been moving at a snail's pace. I am glad that Committee Stage is under way, as the Minister of State noted. We are awaiting the clerk's report on that and I hope we will be able to see quicker progress at that point. Will the Government block the Bill? Should we expect it to use the money message facility at the last minute? I hope that will not be the case. The Minister of State should flag now if that is the Government's intention. We are open to amendments to the Bill from the Government and other parties, as I have said throughout the process. Sinn Féin's intention in the Bill is to plan ahead and allow families, schools, farmers, small businesses, local clubs and GAA clubs to produce power for self-consumption and export to the grid. It is an example of joined-up thinking. Will the Minister of State indicate when we can expect to see a microgeneration support scheme in place?

The pilot scheme that has been carried out will inform the potential future phases of support for microgeneration. That is important. We will take on board the good work the Deputy has been doing on microgeneration, including in his Bill. It is important that we fully assess how we will implement a microgeneration scheme, including tariffs and related issues. The ambition of Government is that the scheme will be in place by 2020.

It is good to hear a scheme will be in place by 2020. There are good examples of microgeneration schemes in other countries. I know the Department will be ultra-cautious on these issues but there are good examples of schemes that are already operating. I ask that lessons be learned from those examples. The average person wants to know when he or she will be able to self-generate and export excess energy to the grid. My Bill has been on the books for two years but I hope we are now making progress with it. The Minister of State has not answered my question as to whether the Government will block it using the money message device. I hope it will not do so. The Bill has broad support in the House so I ask that it would not be delayed.

We need to move this discussion on. It was difficult to get a discussion going on these types of issues in the 31st Dáil but the discussion on energy and climate action has intensified in recent years, particularly in the past six months. Will we have big thinking from Government on this area? The Minister of State indicated a microgeneration scheme will be introduced in 2020. Can we expect large-scale microgeneration to commence in 2020? Big thinking is needed.

The all-of-Government climate action plan is an example of big thinking but it is also practical. It includes key dates, timelines on details on how targets will be delivered. On international best practice, some countries have taken successful approaches to microgeneration, while the approaches of others have been a failure. The clever approach is to look and learn from the successes and failures in other countries to avoid repeating the mistakes made elsewhere. We need to put a scheme in place that is effective and fair and ensures that all those who take part in it are treated properly.