Ministerial ambitions that Ireland should “become a leader rather than a laggard in climate action” have to be matched with a significant increase in funding available to support climate action in this year’s budget, according to the Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

Speaking ahead of next year’s budget announcement in the autumn, MREF chairman Pat Smith referenced comments made by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, regarding upping the country’s game on climate action.

On this, Smith said that business owners and farmers right across the country, who are significant users of energy, were ready to play their part in climate action – but the Government needs to deliver in Budget 2020.

This he said can be done by providing grant aid and low-cost loan finance to support the actions that need to be taken to decarbonise Irish industry and Irish society.

Continuing, Smith said: “A major financial commitment by the Irish state to decarbonise our society will be repaid many times over in VAT and income taxes on the additional employment that will be created in the micro-generation sector and the saving of many millions of euros in fines that will be levied against Ireland for our failures to meet the international commitments Ireland has made to reduce carbon emissions.

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“Irish farmers have tens of thousands of acres of roof space suitable for micro-generation from solar PV.

“However, an economic feed-in tariff, and free and priority access to the grid must be delivered by the Government without any further delays.”

The chairman said that the Government can demonstrate its support for farmers and agriculture, which is a vital sector of Irish society that needs to find new ways of making farms viable.

Right across Europe farm families are being supported to farm energy – whether by solar, wind or anaerobic digestion.

“However, it is disappointing that the new Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) support scheme for solar PV installations on farms falls well short of what is needed by most farmers for effective PV installations on their farms.

“A new dedicated support scheme administered through the SEAI needs to be put in place for on-farm PV installations,” the chairman said.

Smith added that the pilot support scheme for homes has been very well received in the marketplace.

MREF has proposed that the scheme should transfer from pilot status and the level of grant increased by 25% to a maximum of €5,000 to help homeowners generate a substantial portion of their energy needs from renewable electricity.

Concluding, Smith said that actions and not promises have to be at the core of the Government’s ambitions on climate change and these must include a significant increase in the funding made available and supports for all sectors of society on climate action in Budget 2020.