Don't Forget The Rooftops In Irish Solar Subsidy Lottery!


The Irish Government's long-awaited move to incentivise solar energy development in Ireland should not exclude individuals and small businesses who wish to reduce their energy costs by installing rooftop panels. That is according to climate change expert Joseph Curtin in a feature carried in The IrishTimes, this week.

This is one of the recommendations of a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth, concerned the incentive scheme due to be announced in the coming days by the Department of the Environment "may not cover micro/rooftop installations, and may not adequately address barriers to citizen participation" in solar panel deployment.

The report evaluates solar industry trends in the UK and Germany, and rejects suggestions that domestic rooftop solar energy would be too costly or favour wealthy households.

"The initial period of support is necessary so that the technology matures in the Irish market, and to ensure that Ireland can benefit from dramatic technology cost reductions anticipated over coming decades," said Mr Curtin, a research fellow at UCC and member of the Government's climate change advisory council.

While solar PV is a "potentially disruptive technology to incumbent business models", notably those used by utility companies that generate or distribute electricity, "it must be embraced, not blocked, because it offers many benefits for citizens, and is a potentially vital component of the flexible and responsive energy system of the future", the report adds.

"Supporting the industry at this early stage will ensure that a qualified cadre of project developers and technology experts emerges, and a technology supply chain is developed," it says.

While larger schemes offer economies of scale and lower transaction costs, "the argument in favour of household rooftop solar is based on the premise that households could save energy which would otherwise be paid for at the rate of the peak electricity tariff for residential customers".

A renewable electricity incentive scheme proposal being considered by the Government includes provision for commercial rooftop solar development in addition to "on ground" projects.

Ireland has signed up to renewable energy targets for 2020 for electricity renewables, heating renewables and transport renewables.

According to David Maguire, founder and chairman of The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) Ireland will face a shortfall of 2.5pc in renewables, which could translate into penalties for Ireland in region of €300m and rising. So on the Government side there is an urgency to put legislation in place. Maguire and his organisation are advocating for urgency to clarify incentives and price in order to minimise the penalties.

Joseph Curtin and David Maguire will both be speaking at the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) conference November 28-29, in Croke Park, Dublin.