Solar Energy: Why Are We Stuck In Analysis Paralysis?

Author:Ms Mary Dunne
Profession:Maples and Calder

Solar Photovoltaics (PV) is the fastest growing deployed renewable energy technology across the world in the last decade.

Technology advances make it suitable for Northern European countries as direct sunlight is not necessary. The cost of the actual infrastructure has fallen dramatically in recent years. Between 2008 and 2013 it fell by 80% as a result of economies of scale and advances in technology, techniques and experience in installation.

Despite this, Ireland does not currently have any support mechanism in place for Solar PV as it has for wind-farms for over a decade.

This is a globally accepted requirement to enable solar energy, or any form of renewable energy technology, to gain traction and scale and be in a position to compete with other renewable technologies and with conventional energy sources.

In short, at present we have no solar energy industry worth speaking of and will not until the government subsidises the production of solar energy as it has successfully done with wind-farms.

So why have we not introduced the necessary support mechanism to enable the solar energy sector to develop? Is the government's reluctance justified?

Let's be clear, renewable energy is not free despite the fact that the wind and sun are.

Apart from the capital investment in infrastructure and on-going operation costs, renewable energy does not compete on a par with conventional energy and is supplemented by way of a Public Service Obligation ("PSO") Levy added to all electricity bills. With effect form 1 October 2017, the PSO Levy rose from €70.80 per year to €92.28 per year.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC) requires Ireland to meet 16% of its entire energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020. If it does not meet that target, Ireland will have to pay significant fines to the EU.

The Irish government has decided that in order to meet the target, the following needs to happen:

40% of electricity consumed must come from renewable energy sources; 12% of heat consumed must come from renewable energy sources; and 10% of transport energy consumption must come from renewable energy sources. Currently Ireland is getting close to 30% of electricity production coming from renewables but at least another 10% increase is required in a very short period.

Most of our renewable electricity comes from onshore wind in Ireland. However, wind projects take considerably longer than solar projects to deploy and it is unlikely that onshore...

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