Residential Solar Power Offers Win-Win, says leading climate policy expert

Published by Niall Sargent on

August 30th, 2017

The Government’s long-awaited new renewable energy scheme must include support for household solar power, says one of Ireland’s leading climate policy analysts.

A new cost-benefit analysis by Joseph Curtin, a research fellow at both the International and European Affairs and University College Cork, finds that solar panels on homes and businesses can make a significant contribution to Ireland’s switch to clean energy.

The analysis – commissioned by Friends of the Earth (FoE) – also finds that solar power can be easily supported at a reasonable cost for up to on 50,000 homes.

Residential rooftop solar can work alongside commercial and ground-mounted solar, offering many advantages for the grid, bill-payers, and citizens, the report states.

“Solar power offers many benefits for citizens, and is a potentially vital component of the flexible and responsive energy system of the future,” said Mr Curtin, who is also a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

“Electricity bills would be reduced by allowing householders to generate their own electricity, but they must also be able to sell to the grid what they cannot use themselves.”

Mr Curtin added that a generation tariff of 10 cents per kilowatt of electricity produced would make rooftop Solar PV attractive for householders.

According to FoE Director, Oisin Coghlan, a year ago this week Leo Varadkar signed a Friends of the Earth’ petition supporting a fair payment for solar power.

He said that the findings in the new report leave the Government with no excuse but to follow through on its promise to support small-scale solar projects. To date, Ireland is the only EU Member State that does not offer state support for solar.

Mr Coghlan added: “The Government has promised to put citizens and communities at the heart of the transition to a clean energy system and this research shows that solar power is the key to unlocking citizen participation.”

Mr Coghlan warned that we will risk repeating the mistakes of the wind industry and “leave it to the ‘big boys’ to provide Ireland’s renewable energy” without support for small scale project.

“We have to hope that politicians will follow the evidence and the public interest not the special pleading of vested interests,” he concluded.

A public consultation on the Government’s new support scheme for renewable electricity is set to be launched in the coming days although concrete details on the new scheme are not expected until later this year.

Community and farmer-led solar projects are also waiting for clear guidelines from the Government on future state support, according to Conor Walsh, a planning agent who works with farmers on small solar projects.

He hopes that a feed-in tariff guaranteeing a minimum price for generated electricity, and grants for rooftop solar will be included in any package to incentivise community projects.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London