State urged to promote community solar energy to help meet EU rules
SOLAR energy firms have asked the regulator to set aside a portion of national grid availability for community-owned solar farms.
The Irish Solar Energy Assocation (ISEA) said that members would help communities plan and deliver farms in an effort to boost the supply of renewables.
But the creation of around 7,300 high-value jobs is dependent on the Government introducing subsidies for the sector which currently apply to other forms of energy including wind, wave and peat.
ISEA chairman David Maguire said the State faced a "real challenge" to meet EU targets to generate 40pc of electricity from renewables by 2020.
He said that proposed subsidies would add 1pc to domestic electricity bills, totalling around €25m a year, which compared with the €137.7m designated for peat in 2016/2017 and €334m already designated for other renewables. Failure to meet the targets could result in fines of more than €100m a year.
"The country is facing a real challenge to meet these targets and avoid significant fines. Despite the successful deployment of wind energy in Ireland, which enjoyed considerable state support, wind alone will not ensure that we reach that goal.
"We are ready to deploy immediately and just need a support mechanism similar to that afforded to other technologies in order to kick-start the sector."
ISEA has over 100 member companies, and said 250MW could be deployed every year if a subsidy was in place. Mr Maguire said communities should be able to invest in projects, but the details had to be worked out.
"We'd like the opportunity for communities to participate and invest if they so wish. To demonstrate this isn't doffing the cap, in our submission to the Commission for Energy Regulation, we have asked the regulator to look at reserving capacity on the grid for community projects."