Homeowners, farmers, business owners and community groups who produce electricity from solar panels and other renewable sources will soon be able to sell their excess power to the national grid.
A scheme for ‘microgenerators’ is being developed and Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan says he wants it to be running by July this year.
Earning potential varies hugely. Experience in other countries shows the small-scale solar array on an average household roof may produce around €75-worth of excess electricity in a year.
But that incentive, plus the savings from being largely or partially self-sufficient in electricity, could total hundreds of euro annually.
That would help offset the cost of installing solar, while new homes built with solar already installed would have a readymade advantage.
Schools, public buildings, agricultural barns and industrial premises with larger roof space – as well as space for ground-mounted solar, individual wind turbines and other forms of microgenerators – have the potential for much higher savings and earnings.
Details of the scheme will be finalised after a public consultation period running from today until February 17, but consultants engaged to come up with proposals favour allowing power companies to offer deals to customers based on the wholesale price of electricity.
The ESB says the network could accommodate widespread microgeneration by households without having to upgrade infrastructure.
Investment would be required if industry and community groups began exporting large amounts of power.
Apart from the long-term financial incentives, the push for self-generation of electricity is important in cutting fossil fuel use and reducing carbon emissions.
“This scheme will allow people and communities to become active participants in the energy transition,” said Mr Ryan.
"By producing and selling their own electricity, citizens, farmers, business owners and community organisations can save on their energy costs and reduce their carbon footprint.”
The cost of the scheme is estimated at €20m annually in the early years, which would be funded through an existing levy, the PSO, already charged on electricity bills.