Saturday 3 December 2016

Solar firms told not to expect new supports

Published 03/11/2016 | 02:30

Communications Minister Denis Naughten
Communications Minister Denis Naughten

The minister responsible for responding to climate change has moved to dampen expectations from the solar industry that a flurry of development proposals currently in the works will be backed by the Government. Denis Naughten warned last night that he will not see consumers hit with new levies in order to fund the rollout of solar projects, and even questioned the high number of schemes currently in development.

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The ESB recently called on the Government to scrap subsidies for wind and solar energy generation, prompting anger from the renewables sector.

But the minister appears to share their view. He spoke last night at the Energy Institute annual dinner in Dublin, where he urged stakeholders in the solar industry to bring forward suggestions by mid-2017 that would minimise the potential impact on electricity prices of any new solar plans.

"While I do see a place for solar in the energy mix, we cannot have a situation where a new support scheme leads to an excessive increase in people's electricity bills through a higher Public Service Obligation levy," Mr Naughten said.

"Large levels of early speculation can send poor signals to society and State bodies that facilitate delivery of projects," he said.

"This type of unchecked speculation could, in fact, be significantly damaging to what is an industry in its infancy in this country.

"Therefore, I cannot see the significant volume of proposals for solar energy in Ireland being supported in the short term," he said.

A quarter of Irish electricity now comes from renewable sources, but that is still 15 percentage points off the European target for 2020.

Ireland is one of only two countries in Europe not expected to meet emission reductions by 2020.

A significant contribution towards the target came through the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff scheme, which was supported by the Public Service Obligation that is paid for by all electricity customers.

Those schemes closed at the end of 2015 with the minister praising it as a cost-effective way of increasing renewable energy usage.

Over €100m has been allocated in Budget 2017 with the aim of saving 116,000 tonnes in carbon emissions annually.

Part of next year's funding will be used to establish a new Behavioural Change Unit aimed at getting people to do more to prevent climate change.

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