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The end of power for the people - payment scheme for microgeneration closes

3 Nov 2014

The end of power for the people
ESB and Electric Ireland ends its payment scheme for Micro Renewable Generators
It is time for the Government to insist that all renewable energy generators get paid for their energy, regardless of their size or the technology

Friends of the Earth are extremely disappointed to learn that ESB and Electric Ireland will no longer be paying new renewable energy generators for the electricity they produce. Electric Ireland was the only utility in Ireland which bought renewable electricity from its customers. The payment was offered for surplus electricity generated from wind, solar, combined heat and power and hydro. The scheme will close to new applicants at the end of the year, so from 2015 citizens who want to generate and sell renewable electricity will not be able to.

Commenting Kate Ruddock, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Friends of the Earth, said

'As a society we need to transition to a renewable future. This transformation will only be successful with the involvement of all of the people of Ireland. The current energy policy is to support big developers to build big wind farms. This alone is not sustainable. We need a mix of technologies, particularly local generation and local usage. With the ending of payments for citizen and locally generated renewable energy, the people of Ireland are essentially being blocked from entering this market.

Not paying small electricity generators is akin to only paying a handful of big farmers for their food produce, and forcing every small food producer to give away their product for free. '

Irish micro generation rates are amongst the lowest in Europe. With only 5 MW of installed capacity[1], there is huge potential for this industry to grow. While the costs of micro installation have reduced significantly in recent years, particularly for solar electricity, the economics only make sense if you can sell your surplus electricity to the grid as it is produced, and buy it when you need more than you produce. There were a number of problems with the Electric Ireland scheme - it wasn't available for industry, it was never guaranteed and the price of 9c/kwh which was available is roughly only half the retail price meaning it was still economically challenging for householders to make it work. In the UK, rates for micro electricity generation are closer to 18p(23c)/kwh and there is also a payment for local generation of renewable heat. With no such payments available now in Ireland, it is likely that the micro generation industry will completely stall.

Kate Ruddock continued

'The Electric Ireland scheme was a voluntary scheme and the only one of its kind in Ireland. Its closure highlights the significant barriers and complete lack of support for individuals and communities to get involved in renewable energy. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to introduce a mandatory payment for all producers of renewable electricity, big and small, at a price that is fair for both consumers and generators.

For an individual, community, business or industry that wants to reduce its carbon emissions, the easiest thing to do should be to generate solar electricity from your roof. Sadly this is no so here in Ireland. With solar levels roughly 80% as good as Madrid, and comparable to levels across Northern Germany, it is madness, but not surprising that solar electricity only represents 0.3% of electricity produced in Ireland, or about 1 MW. In the UK they have 3,400 MW of solar electricity installed, much of it on the roofs of peoples' homes.

Solar and wind complement each other perfectly and should both be incentivised. Usually when it is not windy, solar works really well, and during the night when there is no light, usually it is much windier. There is now no support at all for solar generation, big or small, only support for big wind.'



[1] Micro generation figures are published in the Irish Wind Energy Association of Ireland (2014) Wind Micro generation step by step guide. The statistics are from ESB networks, September 2014.
[2] The notice of the closure of the Electric Ireland scheme is available here


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