The final consultation of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme to encourage industrial and commercial heat users, in the Republic of Ireland, to switch to greener technologies is now underway.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten recently launched the final consultation.

Minister Naughten invited the public to provide feedback to his Department on the design options for the scheme, with March 3 set as the closing date for receipt of submissions to the consultation.

“This support scheme is aimed at incentivising a switch from fossil fuel based heating systems to renewable heating solutions, which will help Ireland meet its energy and climate change obligations, simultaneously.

“The promotion of renewable energy can be a driver of inclusive economic growth, creating jobs and enterprise opportunities in the rural economy as outlined in the Action Plan for Rural Development published earlier this week,” he said.

In the past, farmers have explored the potential market opportunities in the bioenergy space and many decided not to pursue this avenue until the market was more mature, Minister Naughten said.

As a demand-side measure, the RHI scheme will aim to give the bioenergy and biomass sector the market in renewable heat production that is needed to encourage farmers to take the next step.

“However, for this intervention to be successful it is critical that supply-side policies must be aligned with the demand-side measures that my Department is developing.”

Renewable energy goals

Cleaner heat is a part of Ireland’s renewable energy policy objective and the introduction of a RHI scheme for Ireland is a commitment in the White Paper on Energy and the Programme for Government, according to the Department.

It is expected that the design of the RHI scheme will accelerate Ireland’s efforts to meet the country’s 12% target of heat derived from renewable energy sources by 2020.

The consultation sets out a series of questions on the detailed design of the scheme and seeks public feedback and suggestions on rules, which include:

  • Timing of support.
  • How payments should be structured.
  • How to deal with different unit sizes.
  • What sustainability and efficiency criteria to adopt.

Members of the public and interested stakeholders can find out how to have their say on the scheme on the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment’s website.

Stakeholder responses to the consultation paper will be reviewed and considered by the Department prior to a final decision on the structure and design of the scheme early in 2017.

It is hoped that the RHI scheme will become available at the end of 2017, subject to Government and State Aid clearance.

The overall RHI scheme will be designed so that it ensures value for money for the taxpayers who are being asked to pay the cost of the RHI subsidy.

“Therefore, the RHI scheme I am proposing will have a budget cap mechanism and a mechanism to reduce the amount applicants get paid over time built-in from the start, so the more you burn, the less you earn,” the Minister said.