The NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum welcomes the announcement of the Irish Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). This will finally give the solar industry the kind of support it needs and provide an essential boost to the development of renewable energy across the island of Ireland.
According to Solar Power Portal, the total pipeline of projects in the Republic of Ireland has now reached nearly 6.9GW and, after many years of uncertainty and policy drift, there are approximately 1.3GW of projects eligible to participate in the first round auction. The successful projects will then be part of the first phase of ground-mounted solar construction in the Republic of Ireland. (1)
The RESS follows on from the previous experience of Germany and the UK as a positive way to deliver solar power around the country. NFLA has called for a much wider range of renewable energy technologies across the island of Ireland for a number of years now. (2) Ireland, north and south, has relied far too much on onshore wind. This should now be added to other renewable energy options, including solar, offshore wind, tidal / wave, battery storage, smart energy and the positive role of local authorities in developing extensive energy efficiency and community energy microgeneration projects to tackle the climate emergency. (3)
According to Solar Power Portal, there are currently 36 companies with auction ready projects, and there are a number of companies entering the Irish solar market looking for advanced stage projects to develop. Solar Power Portal expect this process to continue in the coming months. This is welcome and NFLA hopes this new surge in the development of solar farms, as well as more solar on houses, businesses and public buildings, will continue. NFLA calls on councils to support such developments going through the planning process, after due consideration of them.
While the development of onshore wind across the island of Ireland has been impressive in the past decade, there has been a real need to broaden policy. NFLA has been disappointed that both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has lagged behind the EU average for the deployment of renewables and continues to rely too much on fossil fuels. NFLA calls on the new coalition government, when it is agreed upon, to make tackling the climate emergency a primary priority by supporting such a wider range of renewable technologies. Similarly, the NFLA urges the restored Northern Ireland Government to do likewise, and move on from the problems created from the Renewable Heat Incentive with more innovative new policies that support renewable energy.
Within this, it is now time to give local councils the tools, resources and powers to play its part. Across Europe, Local Authorities are playing a focal part in tackling the climate emergency, with innovative policies and projects ranging from energy companies in the likes of Vienna, Munich and Nottingham to dynamic schemes supporting renewable electricity, heating and transport. NFLA has showcased such projects over the past 5 years, and its latest report will be out in April. (4).
NFLA welcomes that its lead authority in Northern Ireland, Newry, Mourne and Down Council; has recently held a day conference understanding the wide range of best practice in the development of decentralised energy. NFLA calls on all councils across the island of Ireland to undertake similar work, and understand more about stellar examples, such as the projects of the Tipperary Energy Agency. (5)
Galway City Council’s NFLA Sustainable Energy representative, Councillor Colette Connolly said:
“I welcome the recent and renewed push for solar energy in Ireland. It has been required for some time if Ireland is going to reach the essential target of becoming a zero carbon nation in the next couple of decades. I call on the new government, when it is finally established, to make the development of a low carbon Ireland its number one priority. A green stimulus will be an essential part of an economic strategy after the covid-19 virus has been taken control of. It is also now the time to bring local government fully into this endeavour in a much more pro-active way. Councils want to be actively involved in the promotion of low carbon, given so many of them have passed climate emergency resolutions. I urge them to work locally and in cooperation with central government so that Ireland has a wider renewable mix to deliver low carbon projects that create new jobs, economic benefits and tackles the climate emergency.”
NFLA All Ireland Sustainable Energy Forum Co-Chair in Northern Ireland, Councillor Karen McKevitt, adds:
“Across the island of Ireland, Councils have passed climate emergency resolutions to emphasise their important role in the essential challenge of transforming to a zero carbon state as quickly as can be done. My own Council in Newry, Mourne and Down has just brought together some excellent examples of best practice, with helpful advice from the NFLA, and this will inspire us to move forward in a more dynamic way. I urge the Northern Ireland Government to work with our Councils in a new partnership that can deliver local energy projects in district heating, renewable transport and more solar and wind projects across our civic estate. There is really no time to waste, and I hope after covid-19 has come under control this will be a core priority of activity for all our councils and the government.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for Editors:
(1) Solar Power Portal, 25th March 2020
(2) NFLA All Ireland Forum Sustainable Energy Forum Policy Briefing 189, August 2019
(3) NFLA Policy Briefing 194, The ‘Top 10’ actions for local authorities to tackle the climate emergency, December 2019
(4) NFLA Policy Briefing 191, Climate emergency – the next steps, September 2019
(5) Newry, Mourne and Down Council Conference – Climate Change, our Challenge, March 12th 2020