The Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) has sent a submission to the government on urgently supporting the farming community in the delivery of renewable energy via solar photovoltaic (PV).

The organisation’s submission offered “a comprehensive package of measures centering on ten key issues”, that it states must be recognised if the government is serious about generating thousands of MW of clean energy through rooftop solar PV.

The package was submitted following a request from the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine for written submissions on solar energy and the agricultural sector. Pat Smith, chairman of the MREF, welcomed the initiative of the committee and said:

“The investigation of these matters must lead to proper and fair policies that will support the farming committee in getting on with the job of adopting renewable power, to help them deal with escalating energy costs.”

The submission explained that Ireland has the potential to generate enough energy to power more than 500,000 homes through rooftop solar PV, “without using one good acre of agricultural land”.

Solar PV supports

In relation to the agricultural industry, the MREF said farmers are frustrated at the lack of clarity from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) around restrictions and the supports that are available.

The submission stated that the DAFM announced that farmers could potentially be offered grants of up to 60% of the cost of a system – however there has been no update on this six months on.

Additionally, many are restricted in the size of the system allowed, which is “leading to indecision and inaction”, according to the MREF.

“There should be no restrictions as to what size of system can be grant-aided once the system can be shown to meet the energy needs of the farm and comply with ESB network-grid connection rules,” it said.

The MREF’s proposal also states that grid access processes need to be improved immediately, outlining that farmers who installed systems through a Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) grant, should not be restricted in their exportation to the grid.

“How can any policy be credible that prevents a farmer from receiving a feed-in payment for surplus energy generated because they had previously received a grant for a solar PV installation?”

According to the organisation, improvements must also be made in the grant aid and feed-in tariff supports system. It said that these measures must be encouraged and that they must be clear and in sync with ESB grid connection rules.

Calling for the €2,400 grant available to small businesses to be revised upwards to reflect the increasing cost of system installations, the MREF asked that the feed-in tarriff, which provides a payment to those exporting energy to the national grid, be increased to a minimum of 17.5c/KWh.