Ireland’s Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) has announced that the long-awaited Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), which started taking shape in September 2017, has been given approval by the government.
Through this new technology-neutral framework, which is still subject to EU state aid approval, the Irish government hopes that renewables will account for 70% of the country’s electricity mix by 2030. “Ireland is currently 86% reliant on fossil fuel. We must radically reduce this dependence and make the transition to cleaner, more renewable energy,” said Minister Richard Bruton.
The Irish government said solar would account for about 10% of the electricity contracted under the scheme.
The first procurement exercise (REES 1) will be launched by the end of this year, with around 1,000 GWh of renewable energy power to be offered. The second auction will award another 3,000 GWh in 2020. Additional auctions, scheduled for 2021, 2023 and 2025, will allocate 3,000 GWh, 4,000 GWh, and 2,500 GWh of capacity, respectively.
Selected developers of renewable energy projects will be awarded feed-in premium-based PPAs spanning from 14 to 16.5 years, depending on delivery date.
In the first round, PV will compete with onshore and offshore wind and biomass projects. The DCCAE said that the first round will be designed to select projects that can be completed by the end of next year, in order to help the country close the gap on the expected shortfall to its binding renewable energy targets for 2020.
“This approach will allow Ireland to take advantage of falling technology costs, and by not auctioning all the required capacity at once, we will avoid ‘locking in’ higher costs for consumers for the entirety of the scheme,” the DCCAE said. “Placing a cap on single technologies allows other technologies to gain a foothold and for nascent supply chains to mature in Ireland.”
Although the scheme is said to be technology-neutral, the government explained that its system costs approach is based on enhanced LCOE, which values certain technologies over others “in terms of their ability to dispatch ‘on demand’ to the grid and … also take non-LCOE (external) costs associated with certain technologies into account.”
Starting from the second auction, community-led projects will also be able to participate. Such projects will likely be granted an additional bonus of €2/MWh, like those developed in France with crowdfunding.
“This volume will be set on an auction-by-auction basis, depending on specific auction policy objectives, and will range from 5%-15%,” the DCCAE said.
Numerous solar projects that have already been developed in Ireland may compete in this year’s auction. The country’s grid operator had already granted approval for more than 1 GW of planned solar projects by the end of 2018.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, Ireland only had 29 MW of installed PV capacity at the end of 2018. The Irish Solar Energy Association recently issued a report which stated the nation could have around 3.7 GW by 2030.
The Irish government currently grants incentives to support PV micro-generation for self-consumption.