Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Renewable Energy Projects
52. To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he has taken to support the development of solar energy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5795/17]
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to facilitate the development of solar energy projects in Ireland. This builds on the Energy White Paper published in December 2015 and recognises that solar also has the potential to provide a community dividend, thereby also enhancing citizen participation in Ireland's energy future. With this in mind, Solar Photovoltaics (PV) is one of the technologies being considered in the context of a new support scheme for renewable electricity generation which is under development.
It is widely recognised that solar PV technology is becoming cost competitive for electricity generation, not only compared with other renewables but also compared with conventional forms of generation. It has been estimated that the cost of solar has dropped by as much as 80% over the last 5 years. Solar also brings a number of benefits like relatively quick construction and a range of deployment options, including solar roof-mounted PV and utility-scale solar PV.
While there are clear benefits that may be derived from the deployment of solar PV in Ireland, I have also been very clear that in designing the new RESS scheme the cost implications for people and businesses will also be a critical consideration consistent with the three pillars of energy policy, sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply. We cannothave a situation where a new support scheme leads to an excessive increase in people’s electricity bills through a higher Public Service Obligation levy.
The first Technology Review public consultation on a new renewable support scheme was published in 2015 and following the completion of a detailed economic analysis on the viability and cost effectiveness of supporting a range of renewable technologies - including Solar (PV) - a second public consultation will be published in 2017. Details of the next public consultation will be advertised on the Department's website www.dccae.gov.ie.
Before any new scheme is introduced, Government approval and State aid clearance from the European Commission will be required. The new support scheme for renewable electricity is expected to become available towards the end of 2017.