AROUND 20,000 electricity customers will be eligible for payments or money off their bills next year after the Government approved a reward scheme for homes and other buildings with solar panels.
The move means electricity providers will pay for the power they currently get free from customers when panels produce more energy than a building can use.
It will benefit in particular households that do not have battery storage units to hold on to excess power, and larger premises such as schools, community premises, businesses and farm buildings that have a lot of roof space for solar generation.
Thousands more customers are expected to sign up as they install solar panels over the coming years although, under the current terms, the amount of electricity from such microgeneration that can be added to the grid will be set at 2.5 megawatts – equivalent to around 1m panels on 70,000 buildings.
Two different payment schemes will be offered depending on the category of building and amount of power on offer.
Households will get a ‘clean export guarantee’ tariff from their electricity supplier per kilowatt hour (kWh) of power provided.
The amount has not been set and will be modest – possibly around one-third the price customers pay to buy electricity – but with 14 electricity providers in the Irish market, competition is expected and customers will be urged to shop around to see who offers the best deal.
A similar scheme in the UK pays around 3-5.5p per kWh and annual payments or bill credits can range from less than £50 to well over £150.
Payments or credits valued at up to €200 here will not be taxed but it is likely that average domestic solar panels will come in well under that threshold.
Larger buildings will receive an additional ‘clean export premium’ on top of the competitive tariff. It will start at 1.35 cent per kWh in 2022 and reduce gradually each year from 2024.
Existing State grants towards domestic solar panel installation will still be available and a new suite of grants for non-domestic applicants will be offered.
Minister for Energy and Climate Action Eamon Ryan said microgeneration had an important role not just in clean electricity generation, but also in engaging the public in energy production.
“It creates opportunities for domestic, community, farming and small commercial customers to take the first steps towards investment in renewable technologies, which can play a role in shaping electricity demand and decarbonising homes and businesses,” he said.
The first payments or credits on bills will be received by domestic customers soon after June next year.
The clean export premium is expected to be available next autumn. The grants for businesses, farms and community buildings will also be available in the second half of the year.
The Irish Solar Energy Association welcomed the move.
Chief executive Conall Bolger said: “The vast majority of people in Ireland want to take action to reduce their carbon footprint. These new measures create a practical route for doing so.
“Hopefully, it will prompt every household, farm and business to assess their suitability for solar in 2022”.