May 24, 2024

Irish Government Introduces New Incentives for Solar Energy Producers

Under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Support Scheme (SRESS), the Energy Minister announced higher financial incentives and appealing fixed tariffs for small-scale wind and solar projects, including a 20% higher tariff for grid-scale community solar installations compared to recent auction prices.

Small-scale and Community Solar Projects Prioritised

The Minister for Energy announced that small-scale and community projects generating power from solar and wind will receive increased financial incentives. Under the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Support Scheme (SRESS), farmers, small firms, and communities will benefit from more attractive fixed tariffs.

The scheme offers three community rates and three SME rates for both solar and wind energy. Notably, grid-scale community solar projects will receive a guaranteed tariff 20% higher than the average community price from the last energy auction two years ago.

SRESS is crucial to the government's solar strategy and part of a broader framework for renewable self-consumers. It will provide support for renewable electricity installations that don't fit into other schemes like the utility-scale Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) and the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS), effectively bridging the gap between them.

Minister Eamon Ryan explained, “SRESS will provide assistance for renewable electricity installations that are not suitable to other support policies, such as the utility scale Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) and the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS), thereby bridging the gap between the two schemes.”

Reduction Necessary for Connecting Micro-Generation to the Grid

The minister went on to say that it is envisaged that the SRESS will give community projects a simpler path to market and better match the expertise and capabilities of the community energy sector.

The Chairman of the Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF), Pat Smith, welcomed the development but expressed concerns about the target export tariff rates in the SRESS scheme, which could affect the viability of many projects, especially those financed through high-interest bank loans or other debt.

“Grid connection expenses for micro-generation must be reduced as a major component of project expenditures." Smith noted. "If we are serious about increasing the adoption of renewable energy, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities and the Networks Operator, ESB Networks, must re-examine these.”

ISEA Support

The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) welcomed the news, noting significant progress in solar energy in Ireland, with numerous solar farms connecting to the grid and widespread adoption of rooftop solar panels by households.

The SRESS scheme aims to support community energy schemes, large business rooftops, and farm-based solar initiatives, thereby enhancing overall capacity. However, the association emphasized the need for ongoing efforts to ensure these projects have prompt and affordable access to the national energy grid.

CEO Conall Bolger remarked, "Solar energy has advanced dramatically in Ireland in the last two years. We've seen a lot of solar farms linked to the grid, and homes across the country are rapidly adopting rooftop solar panels.”

Other Existing Incentives

Ireland's dedication to a sustainable future is reflected in its extensive support for solar energy, with significant government incentives aimed at making solar installations more affordable for homeowners, businesses, and farmers. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) offers a Solar Electricity Grant, providing up to €2,100 for homeowners installing solar PV panels, helping to increase renewable energy sources in the country.

For non-domestic entities such as businesses, schools, and farms, the NDMG provides funding for larger solar PV systems, with grants potentially reaching up to €162,600 for systems up to 1,000 kWp. Additionally, the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) supports farmers with grants covering up to 60% of installation costs, capped at €90,000, encouraging the use of sustainable energy in agriculture.

The Irish government has further committed funds in Budget 2024 to support energy upgrades and solar PV installations, including electricity credits and European funds to assist energy-poverty households.

The application process for these grants requires meeting specific eligibility criteria and submitting applications through the SEAI website. Policy changes, such as the 0% VAT rate on domestic solar panel installations, have significantly boosted growth in the sector, demonstrating the government's proactive approach to promoting renewable energy adoption.


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