My Department is developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which is being designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030. The design of the new scheme has included an extensive independent economic appraisal. This appraisal compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies, at various scales including micro-generation, 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. A public consultation on the new Scheme, which closed in November 2017, resulted in over 1,250 responses and analysis of these is almost complete.
A cornerstone of the new scheme will be the provision of pathways for increased community based ownership and participation in and benefit from renewable electricity projects in line with the 2015 Energy White Paper. Communities and citizens are effectively being designed into the fabric of the new scheme and the SEAI in conjunction with my Department have recently completed a comprehensive assessment of polices and support measures to underpin and deliver this ambition.
One of the highest ranking community measures proposes a separate ‘community-led’ category for projects that are initiated or majority owned by individuals or groups within the local community. We also need to address measures to support citizens and community groups, who may wish to develop their own project or participate in a developer-led project, overcome legal, financial and technical barriers to renewable electricity generation. This ambition is now being mirrored across the EU as part of the recast Renewable Energy Directive, which will establish the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers and renewable energy communities.
Micro generation was also appraised as part of the RESS economic assessment and the analysis identified a number of challenges that may need to be addressed before a support scheme for micro generation can be developed. Notwithstanding this, I am committed to further exploring opportunities for supporting micro generation and in October 2017 my Department and the SEAI hosted a workshop on micro generation at which a number of these challenges were discussed with relevant stakeholders. On foot of this workshop and further engagement with the micro generation industry, I have asked the SEAI to conduct a short study to assess the likely demand for and impact of micro generation, among the public. It is my intention to launch a grant aided pilot scheme this summer for solar PV micro generation initially targeted at self-consumption and for domestic properties.
My Department will continue to work with the micro generation sector and the SEAI to better understand how to validate and further develop these policies in a fair and cost effective manner.
It is also worth pointing out the SEAI’s Better Energy Communities scheme currently supports micro generation vis-à-vis grant aiding a portion of costs associated with a solar PV installation.