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Budget 2024 should empower farmers to take climate action

Photo credit: Statkraft Ireland

Irish Solar Energy Association

25 Sept 2023

Solar industry calls for extension to agricultural reliefs for land with solar panels

Farmers should be supported to play a more active and positive role in tackling climate change, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) has said. According to ISEA, relatively minor and cost neutral changes to Ireland’s tax codes could dramatically increase the availability of land that could be used as solar farms, providing new income streams to farmers and supporting the country’s renewable targets.

Releasing its 2024 Pre-Budget Submission ISEA has called on the government to recognise the importance of addressing current barriers to farmers becoming involved in solar energy. Conall Bolger CEO of ISEA explained “Ireland has an ambitious target to reach 8GW of solar energy by 2030. 25,000 acres will be required to reach this target, which equates to just 0.2% of Ireland’s farmland. Crucially, land that is used for solar farms can still be used for grazing and for certain crops.”

Bolger warns that a bureaucratic barrier is preventing many farmers from availing of this opportunity to diversify their income. “Farming families can avail of important tax exemptions that allow land to be passed on to the next generation without punitive tax bills. However, this does not apply in instances where more than 50% of land is utilised by solar panels.”

“This arbitrary rule has a chilling effect on the number of farmers in a position to consider supporting climate action through solar power. Understandably many farmers will not consider leasing land for solar farms, if they are concerned it will cost their family significant amounts of money in the future.”

ISEA is calling on government to address this by lifting the 50% solar PV restriction on Capital Acquisitions Tax Agriculture Relief. Similarly, they want amendments to the tax codes to allow Capital Gains Tax Retirement Relief to apply to land in use as a solar farm.

Bolger describes these proposals as a common sense measure, “there is a clear need to make land available for solar energy projects while farmers are also looking for ways to play a positive role in climate action. These current restrictions effectively prevent many farmers from becoming involved, but generate little or no revenue for the State – thus their abolition will have no material impact on exchequer funding.”

ISEA is also calling on the government to provide additional funding through Budget 24 to ensure all state bodies have adequate expertise to address climate change.

“There is a clear shortage of people across the key government departments and state agencies”, Bolger warned. “This results in slower decisions and slower implementation of key policy areas. We have a Climate Action Plan but right now we don’t have the resources in place to deliver it. That has got to change.”

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