The Irish government has allotted €380 million ($403 million) – what it is referring to as the “biggest ever budget” – for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s residential and community upgrade schemes, which includes the solar PV grant scheme for homeowners.
The government made the announcement in its 2024 Budget, handed down on Tuesday, under the banner of “energy transformation.” The government said the allocation “will continue to build momentum in delivering on our national retrofit targets” and is a €24 million spend increase on last year.
Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, said in the first half of 2023 solar panel installation increased 231% from last year. This was followed by the government’s move to slash VAT. It is expected that 21,000 households will receive solar support by the end of the year, the announcement states.
But Conall Bolger, CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA), told pv magazine today that the budget was “perhaps not quite so generous as it first appears.” While he welcomed certain government measures, such as the new low-interest loan scheme for rooftop solar, and doubling the tax disregard when a household sells excess solar electricity back to the grid, some instruments lacked urgency and “fail to deliver meaningful actions.”
There was 616 MW of rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV connected to the Irish grid at the end of 2022, according to data provided by the Irish Distribution System Operator, ESB Networks, Bolger said. He said the department is forecasting 1,060 MW connected at the end of 2023.
In a wider commentary on the budget, Bolger said he was critical of the government’s failure to scrap tax barriers preventing farmers from leasing land for solar developments. “Central to Ireland’s decarbonisation plan is the government’s own stated ambition to develop 8 GW of solar energy by 2030,” he explained.
“This will require approximately 25,000 acres of solar farms within this decade and making this a reality will require the cooperation of farmers across the country. All farming families are conscious of tax exemptions to allow land to be passed on to the next generation without punitive tax bills. Inexplicably, this does not apply in instances where more than 50% of land is utilised by solar panels.”
He also expected the government to remove the “arbitrary rule” that “punishes” farmers who engage in renewable energy. Bolger said there is growing demand from home and business owners to implement rooftop solar PV panels, and meeting this demand would require more trained tradespeople to install the technology.
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