The farming community could supply hundreds of megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity from “thousands of acres” of shed rooftops all over the country within a “very short time frame”, it has been claimed.
The comments came from the chairman of the Micro-Renewable Energy Federation, Pat Smith, in response to plans announced by the recently-appointed Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, to place climate change centre stage in 2019.
Smith also contends that “outdated planning rules” around solar PV roof installations must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
In a speech delivered last week, Minister Bruton stated his commitment to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change – “not a follower”.
The minister said the move will require a significant “step change” across Government to “act now, stretch ourselves and seize enterprise opportunities” in a low-carbon economy – including the new circular and bio-economies.
Smith said that the “fastest and most economical way” to address Ireland’s persistent under-performance on climate action is to get every home, business and farm in the country to generate part of their own electricity needs using roof-top solar PV generation.
The Government urgently needs to tap into this resource and come forward with necessary grant support and a feed-in tariff to encourage export to the grid.
He also outlined that the recently-launched pilot grant domestic scheme for solar PV and battery storage on homes was being “well received” by homeowners who he said “are tired of paying ever increasing electricity prices”.
“The domestic grant for solar PV and storage provides strong encouragement for households to slash their utility bills by generating a significant proportion of their own renewable electricity.
More now needs to be done with pillar banks and credit unions coming on board to support their customers and communities by providing low-interest finance for renewable projects.
The chairman also criticised the “outdated planning rules” around putting solar PV installations on roofs and said they need to be urgently addressed.
Under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, Ireland has agreed to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions, on 2005 levels, by 2020.
Non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector) include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry.
Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030.
Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) Ireland is also committed to producing at least 16% of all energy consumed in the Republic from renewable sources by 2020.
Smith said that business people will support the climate change effort, but they can’t be expected to do so without a reasonable business case that pays back their investments within five years.
Network operators have maintained a strangle-hold on policy makers that needs to be broken.
“Access to the grid should be free for any farm or business wishing to install a micro-renewable project up to 500 kilowatts (kW) in size to generate energy for export to the grid.”
Smith concluded by saying that he predicts that homes, businesses and farmers will “respond quickly and positively” to targeted support structures for micro generation.
He encouraged Minister Bruton and the Government to put the necessary policies and supports in place without any further delay.