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Renewable Energy Generation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 16 September 2021

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Questions (5)

Darren O'Rourke


5. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the introduction of the microgeneration scheme; when the scheme will be in operation; the way it will operate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44109/21]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Environment)

Will the Minister provide an update on the introduction of the microgeneration scheme? When will it be in operation and how will it operate? Will he make a statement on the matter?

The programme for Government commits to expanding and incentivising microgeneration to help people generate renewable electricity for their own use and to sell excess electricity back to the grid. My Department outlined proposals for a new microgeneration support scheme in a public consultation that closed in February last. A summary report of the submissions received has been published on my Department's website. While the primary aim of a microgeneration scheme is to enable a household to meet its own electricity needs, it is intended that a suitable payment for excess electricity generated on site and exported to the grid will be available to all renewables self-consumers later this year, subject to regulatory arrangements, in line with the transposition of Articles 21 and 22 of the recast renewable energy directive.

It is expected the CRU will publish a draft framework in the coming weeks outlining the details, including eligibility criteria and timescales for introduction, of the clean export guarantee payment for exported renewable electricity. This framework will introduce an obligation on all electricity suppliers to offer remuneration to their customers, by way of a clean export guarantee payment, for excess renewable electricity exported to the grid by eligible micro and small-scale generators.

Further to the public consultation mentioned previously, my Department is developing a final scheme design for the microgeneration support scheme which incorporates feedback from the consultation and subsequent additional analysis. It is envisaged a proposal on the supports to be offered to homeowners, farms, schools and businesses under the scheme, which may include grants or premium tariff payments, will be submitted to Government later this year.

I thank the Minister for the update. This is one of those areas in which all of us can see opportunity. We are all frustrated with the rate of progress in this area. My party colleague, Deputy Stanley, published legislation four years ago which would have introduced a scheme, had it been adopted. There are great opportunities in this area. Any of us who have seen similar schemes in operation elsewhere know the potential of it. My colleague, Senator Boylan, and I made a submission to the public consultation and highlighted numerous areas of concern and a number of opportunities and barriers that could be addressed. There was a concern about the scheme with regard to the building energy rating, BER, that applicants would have to meet. Is that going to be part of the new scheme? That would exclude a lot of schools, community groups, farm buildings and that sort of thing. Will they be included?

Many of the grant schemes we have in place are associated with higher BER standards. This is because, for example, if a building is not properly insulated, the use of a heat pump can be very wasteful. We want to incentivise retrofitting and to make sure there is efficiency in electricity use and in every other area first. There is always a desire to connect efficiency with any grant system. The microgeneration support price will be subject to the CRU details which are to come out in the coming weeks. It needs to be much simpler. It needs to be much easier to implement and straightforward and should not necessarily have so many conditions and complexities. The electricity supply company serving a household will be obliged to pay it. It has to be standardised. There cannot be conditions and complexity. I am very frustrated at the delay in this area. We are going to be delayed by months rather than years but it will be in place this winter and by the end of this year. It will be critical to help farmers and householders sell power back.

By way of follow-up question, another group which is falling through the cracks in all of these developments, and there are a range of developments although they are not happening nearly as quickly as we might like, is renters. We have the prospect of an increasing number of renters living in private rented accommodation or, it is to be hoped, social rented accommodation. Will there be specific measures for private landlords to ensure renters are not left behind in terms of the opportunities for microgeneration and that they are not left in poorly heated and poorly insulated properties?

The Deputy is right. To go back to the just transition we were talking about earlier, no sector should be left behind. That is why there is a commitment in the Housing for All strategy, published two weeks ago, that we would put in place conditions, over a suitable time period to give landlords advance notice such that those rental properties would have to meet a rising BER standard so that the renter would not be disadvantaged and left paying very high energy bills and having an unhealthy apartment. That has to be done carefully over time so that landlords are not forced out of a market that is already short of supply, but it was absolutely appropriate for the Housing for All strategy to use that measure to protect renters and make sure they have an energy-efficient place to live, just like everyone else.