The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) All Ireland Forum has given a highly qualified welcome to the establishment of a grant scheme for solar panel and energy storage deployment for homeowners.
Whilst acknowledging that it is a positive step forward and it will assist some homeowners to install low carbon energy solutions, it is lamentably tame when compared to Ireland’s urgent need to address its fossil fuel dependency and its shameful record on cutting carbon emissions. This has recently been exposed by the ‘Climate Action Network’s Europe 2018 Off Target Report’ putting Ireland second last ahead of Poland in the EU 28. (1)
NFLA notes that, unlike the UK’s feed-in tariff scheme, which sought to incentivise the market to encourage generation and export into the national grid, Ireland has gone down the route of providing a one off grant to homeowners only, thus just supporting ‘self-consumption’ and very small-scale micro- generation. This scheme will be administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). (2)
NFLA is a strong supporter of microgeneration but it sees support in the form of feed in tariffs, not just one-off small-scale installation grants, which are made available for larger commercial and publicly owned buildings, as an essential part of such a renewable energy promotion strategy.
Why such a scheme is excluded at this time needs to be properly explained and addressed at the six- month review stage by the Government.
Broader ‘feed-in’ tariff schemes were initially developed in Germany and then taken up by other states, including the UK. They have proved an invaluable tool in driving up interest in, and support for, renewables and particularly in the development of solar energy. Indeed, many UK Councils have used feed-in tariffs to develop exciting solar schemes across their social housing, council buildings and school buildings portfolio. Despite this success though, in 2015 the UK Government announced a 65% cut in the amount of subsidy to such schemes claiming they were too expensive, and have announced a further cut recently. This has led to a huge reduction of solar panel deployments, the closure of many solar power companies and significant job losses. (3).
NFLA urges Minister Naughton to consider how the Government could also directly assist Councils in developing larger schemes for social housing, schools and Council buildings. For too long, Ireland has failed to develop a wider renewable energy vision, relying too much on onshore wind. It is to be welcomed that it now sees the benefit of solar power. By ignoring full cooperation with local Councils on solar rooftop energy and storage schemes the Government is omitting an obvious part of any new energy pathway and a real opportunity to create a more comprehensive form of decentralised energy.
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chair, Councillor Mark Dearey said:
“Whilst I hope this new grant scheme will spur on the growth of renewable energy, I do see it as very little, very late. It will not prevent Ireland dodging heavy fines from the EU for failing to meet its 2020 carbon reduction targets. However, I would encourage homeowners to engage with the SEAI and apply for the grant. And I am also calling on the Government to now work with Councils to consider ways they can develop similar schemes which are desperately needed to ramp up Ireland’s efforts to be a low carbon economy. Ireland is a long way behind the European average for the development of renewables and I hope this scheme will be radically modified in 6 months’ time to include larger commercial and council rooftops though a feed-in tariff type scheme. This in turn will accelerate our efforts to reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty around the country, two desperately needed outcomes.”
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chair (Northern Ireland), Councillor John Trainor added:
“I cautiously welcome the Irish Government’s scheme which has tried to learn some lessons from previous schemes in the UK. Coming after the RHI debacle in Northern Ireland it is good to see at least a limited solar grant scheme being developed in Ireland, though it needs to be much more ambitious. I call on the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government to restore the previous feed-in tariff scheme to kick start renewable energy generation in the north. Otherwise, the good work and momentum that has been developed over the past decade could be lost. Northern Ireland is also in real need of developing a wider renewable energy mix and it desperately needs some new thinking to do this. Without it, I fear we may go backwards in the challenge to create a low carbon energy system and economy.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Climate Action Network Europe, Ranking of EU countries ambition and progress in fighting climate change, http://www.caneurope.org/docman/climate-energy-targets/3357-off-target-ranking-of-eu-countries-ambition-and-progress-in-fighting-climate-change/file
(2) Solar Power Portal, 31st July 2018, https://www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/ireland_kicks_off_grant_scheme_for_domestic_solar_plus_storage_installation
(3) The Guardian, 8th April 2016, UK solar power installations plummet after government cuts, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/08/solar-installation-in-british-homes-falls-by-three-quarters-after-subsidy-cuts