Big energy players wield ‘too much control’ on future renewable vision

The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) has today warned against the “significant influence” major energy companies have over the country’s future renewable strategy.

Pat Smith, joint chairman of MREF, has claimed that major utilities want to retain “total control” over the generation, distribution and supply of electricity – a move which he says “dismisses” the potential growth of a micro renewable energy sector in Ireland.

Micro generation is the small-scale generation (less than 11kW) of heat and electricity power by individuals, small businesses and communities to meet their own needs.

This type generation from small-scale wind, solar and hydro energy, could be used as a viable alternative to traditional centralised grid-connected power.

“Recently released consultation documents on a new renewable energy support scheme bore all the hallmarks of big energy influence. The micro generation sector is almost totally dismissed as a viable alternative to big energy players,” said Smith.

Nothing could be further from the truth as roof top solar PV (photo voltaic) and battery storage are viable and sustainable solutions to help Ireland achieve its challenging climate change targets.

The MREF estimates that there are at least 500,000 homes, 50,000 businesses, and 100,000 farms whose roof space could collectively accommodate at least 5,000MW of electricity generation.

“With the use of battery and other storage options – such as water heating and electric vehicle charging – most if not all of this energy could be consumed within the very homes and businesses where the renewable power is generated. This would also have a positive impact on grid capacity.

“The incentives needed to support businesses and homes switching to solar and battery storage technologies are less than what the government is currently paying big wind developers in guaranteed feed-in tariffs. Most of these financial supports are leaving the country,” he said.

Redirecting PSO levy

The MREF contends that redirecting 20% of the existing PSO levy towards micro generation would provide grant support; a generation tariff; and facilitate the viable roll-out of up to 250MW per year of roof top and ground mounted solar – that could be used for energy consumption in homes and businesses countrywide.

It is time that the government moved to break the stranglehold of the major energy utilities by supporting micro generation and encouraging households and businesses to generate some, if not all, of their own electricity requirements.

Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe yet to support micro renewable technologies including roof top solar and battery storage, according to the MREF.

“Farmers also need to be incentivised to adopt renewable technologies with a credit offsetting carbon reductions achieved through micro generation,” Smith concluded.

The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation is a members’ organisation representing the majority of companies and stakeholders engaged in developing, installing and manufacturing micro PV solar and battery storage in Ireland.

MREF also represents thousands of households and businesses waiting for the “long overdue” delivery of the government’s commitment to support micro energy generation.