Grant-aided scheme for solar panels announced

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Denis Naughten has announced his intention to open a grant-aided pilot scheme this summer for solar PV microgeneration – solar panels for home use.

This programme will initially cover self-consumption and domestic use for homeowners.

The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) has welcomed the announcement as the “first step” towards unlocking the potential of micro-renewables.

Speaking at the Renewable Energy Summit 2018 held in the Croke Park, Minister Naughten said that this initiative “will be the first phase in a multi-phased implementation of supports for microgeneration in Ireland”.

Commenting on the move, joint chairman of MREF, Pat Smith said: “Today’s announcement by Minister Naughten is an important, positive first step towards unlocking the significant contribution that microgeneration of renewable energy for self-consumption will make towards Ireland’s climate action targets.

We would encourage the minister to extend the pilot scheme for self-consumption to business and farmers also.

“Microgeneration will also be the catalyst to regaining the trust and support of local communities for renewable power generation,” Smith claimed.

“The microgeneration sector is made up of small and medium sized businesses up and down the country that are committed to renewables, a clean energy future and empowering farmers, businesses and households to contribute to Ireland’s climate action targets.

“MREF supports this move by Minister Naughten as a first phase and will work with him and his officials to extend government supports for microgeneration as widely as possible.”

Potential

MREF estimates that 500,000 homes, 50,000 businesses, and 75,000 farms have suitable roof space to deliver up to 250mW electricity per year from roof-top PV Solar installations.

All of this power can be used for self-consumption in these homes, businesses and farms, according to the federation.

Microgeneration technology (including PV solar and battery storage) is proven, output is predictable and cost levels have fallen to historically-low levels, the group claims.

L-R: Pat Smith, CEO of Local Power and joint chair of the Micro Renewable Energy Federation; Alan Hogan, CEO of Heat Merchants and joint chair of the Micro Renewable Energy Federation; and Minister Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten. Image source: Maxwell Photography

Current payback on finance for PV solar installations is between seven and eight years, the organisation has said.

However, with sufficient Government support, MREF believes homes and businesses should be able to reduce this to below five years – the minimum required to support microgeneration and much wider participation in the renewables revolution.

MREF explained that it has sought a fixed grant of €500/kWp for homes and €400/kWp for commercial premises – targeted initially for self-consumption.

MREF has also proposed that a higher level of grant may be warranted for voluntary bodies and homes suffering fuel poverty.

A generation tariff for larger commercial roof top developments and a REFIT tariff for farms and businesses that wish to export to the grid is also required for microgeneration projects up to 1MW.

Hogan said: “The funding required to support the build out of up to 250MW of roof top solar per year is equivalent to 20% of the existing PSO levy paid by all consumers of electricity.

It will generate up to 5,000 regionally dispersed jobs; the economic activity and tax return will underpin and reward the Government support given.

“Most importantly it will start to empower communities by supporting households and businesses to immediately adopt renewable technologies, and thereby contribute to Ireland’s climate change targets,” the joint chair concluded.