The wide-scale deployment of solar energy technologies in Ireland would see the generation of over 7,300 “high-value” jobs and would also slash fines from the European Union by more than €300 million a year onward from 2020, according to a new report from the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).
The report accompanies a request from the ISEA for the government to introduce policy support for solar energy — solar is apparently the only renewable energy modality in Ireland that doesn’t qualify for a subsidy currently.
The report goes on to note that, during the first 2 weeks of June, a commercial solar energy installation in the southeast generated 16,000 units of renewable electricity — which implies that a more robust solar energy sector, with say around ~2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, would have generated around 7% of the country’s needs during that 2 week period.
As it stands, Ireland is on track to not achieve its European Union 2020 renewable energy goals (40% of electricity generated by renewables). During 2014, the country managed to hit the 23% mark (with wind energy, hydropower, and biomass), well below its goals. Notably, more than 85% of the electricity used in Ireland in 2014 was imported (with coal use making up a notable percent).
The Chairman of the ISEA, David Maguire, stated: “It is clear 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. However, solar, which is a material part of the established solution for other countries in Europe, is still in its embryonic state here. 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.”
The report makes reference to the effect that support in the UK and Germany has had on the local solar energy sectors, and the similar potential for Ireland.
Maguire continued: “Essentially, we are saying that for every €1 that is invested in the sector, we will return €3 to the economy. There is no reason for Ireland to be lagging behind our European counterparts. The only difference is those countries received significant government support. What we now need is modest support from the Irish state to be able to generate real returns and savings as well as helping secure Ireland’s own energy future.”
The submission calls for a competitive auction process with a “clearing price” to be used to determine the tariff for ground-mounted solar projects. According to those involved, this generates the best value for consumers.
The report argues that the introduction of a subsidy for solar energy would add around 1% (€19) to yearly household energy costs. The press release notes that: “it is estimated that more than 2,200 businesses and 70,000 households could produce their own power if 500 MW of rooftop solar was installed by 2023 — with the figure doubling in subsequent years.”
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