Ireland's solar landscape could reach 3.7 GW by 2030, says report


The Irish solar landscape could grow to around 3.7 GW by 2030, says a report released this week by the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

Conducted by British analyst firm KPMG, the report, titled A Brighter Future: The Potential Benefits of Solar PV in Ireland, examined the economic benefits of adding solar capacity in Ireland, the necessary support mechanisms required and the impacts on Ireland’s environmental and energy infrastructure.

It concluded that the rapid cost reduction of solar seen globally since 2008 can now deliver large-scale solar in Ireland at a cost of €150/MWh, and if just €670 million in investment in the sector was forthcoming between 2017 and 2030, the solar industry of Ireland could support around €2 billion of Gross Added Value.

KPMG forecasts that such investment could underpin the creation of 7,300 jobs per year over that same period, and would see the industry grow to become one of Ireland’s key economic performers over the next decade, stressing: "solar could provide an effective technology for multinational companies with an Irish presence seeking to source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources".

In terms of energy security and meeting Ireland’s environmental targets, solar PV can also play a pivotal role, finds the report, reducing the Emerald Isle’s dependence on imported fuels and, interestingly, "helping to diversify the energy system risks posed by high levels of wind generation".

Ireland has set a renewable energy target of 40% by 2020 – a target referred to in the report as one of the most “stretching” in the world. Solar’s growing affordability and scalability makes it an obvious avenue for government to explore as it seeks to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, adds the report.

The distributed nature of solar PV will also empower Irish citizens and communities to take control of their own energy production and increase consumers’ awareness of the benefits of solar, this helping to kick-start a scenario that will ultimately lead to grid parity and, thus, even wider deployment.

To aid further adoption, the ISEA suggests the introduction of a solar feed-in tariff (FIT) in 2017, degressing to €0.06/kWh after five years, and to €0.02/kWh by 2030. Should such a scheme be introduced in 2016 or 2017, then the figure of 3.7 GW of cumulative PV capacity could become a reality by 2030.

"We estimate that the total policy support necessary to develop a thriving Irish solar sector will be €670 million over the 2017-2030 period, equivalent to a 1% increase in domestic retail electricity prices,” said the report.

By 2030, KPMG calculates that solar could be cost-competitive with conventional energy, starting in 2017 with a base level price of €13 cents/kWh.

"Overall, under the scenarios we have modeled, for each €1 of policy support, a solar industry in Ireland will deliver €3 of Gross Added Value to the economy over the 2017-2030 period," the report concluded.

Ireland’s current solar capacity is rather miniscule, with a recent 800-panel, €330,000 installation by Tipperary County Council across nine of its buildings thought to be the largest installation in the country. A spokesperson at the ISEA told pv magazine that there are no official government figures on the total amount of solar capacity installed in Ireland thus far, due largely to the low base of installations and the dominance of wind power in the renewable energy landscape.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) solar analyst Nico Tyabji also told pv magazine that Ireland’s cumulative installed solar PV capacity is "approximately 0 MW", which highlights the scale of opportunity that exists in the country – an opportunity that British developer Lightsource is targeting having announced in the summer it is eyeing a €500 million investment in Ireland’s solar market.