The Irish solar industry has made big promises. However, to date, progress has been limited relative to ambition. Is 2022 the year the industry begins to deliver?
Next year is set to be a pivotal for the Irish solar industry. The Irish network will connect the first large-scale utility solar projects, with 500MW expected to be in construction by the end of 2022. Customer scale solar should receive a boost from a new export tariff and an easing of planning restrictions. This is good news as it means Ireland can decarbonise its power system more quickly; save Irish customers real money; and enable citizen participation in the energy transition.
Solar reduces carbon faster
Solar generates electricity during daylight hours in high-demand periods. The data shows that solar will tend to displace higher emitting fossil fuel plants that usually run during these periods. This effect means that, for the same volume of renewable electricity, there is a greater emissions gain in an electricity mix with higher volumes of solar on the Irish system. Research by AFRY found that meeting 2030 renewables targets with a higher proportion of solar in the mix would reduce emissions by a further 7%, compared to a portfolio with less solar.
Installation of solar on premises enables electricity self-sufficiency, direct emission reductions and electricity bill savings, easing dependence on the effects of international fossil prices on local retail markets.
Solar saves customers money
The same AFRY research found that a higher solar portfolio could save customers €106 million per year by the mid-2030s. More profoundly, there has not yet been an Irish portfolio modelled in which solar costs money; Ireland could install 6GW by 2030 and it would still benefit society. The least-cost renewables portfolio is one with substantially higher volumes of solar than today. These savings come from reductions in the cost of supporting renewables and emissions costs, both of which impact directly on customer bills.
Solar enables citizen participation
Installation of solar on premises enables electricity self-sufficiency, direct emission reductions and electricity bill savings, easing dependence on the effects of international fossil prices on local retail markets. Beyond those direct benefits, customer scale solar enables citizens to engage directly with the energy transition. It provides people with an entry point to sustainability and gets them started on their journey. If citizens cannot engage, they will not participate and their active involvement is key to activating deep emissions reductions.
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