Photo credit: EDF Renewables Ireland
Irish Solar Energy Association
26 Sept 2023
Irish Solar Energy Association calls for lessons to be learned
Despite overall positive outcomes emerging from today’s Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) auction, the solar industry has said it is a disappointing day for climate action in Ireland. The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) believes that this RESS 3 auction was overly rigid and that avoidable systemic failures limited its potential for success.
The RESS scheme, which is designed to encourage increased investment in Irish renewables, sees renewable energy providers bid for the opportunity to build renewable energy projects.1 The results, published by EirGrid today, awarded contracts to 23 separate renewable projects, including 20 solar farms. The successful solar farms will ultimately deliver a total of 497MW in electricity onto the national grid. This is equivalent to enough electricity to power over 114,000 homes across the country.
Conall Bolger, CEO of ISEA explains that despite today’s positive results, RESS 3 endorses the concerns the industry had expressed about how the RESS auctions were designed.
“Every megawatt of new renewable capacity is a victory, but this is also a missed opportunity. We are slowing down when we should be speeding up.”
“There is close to universal support for the vision behind these annual auctions. However, what started out with a clear goal to boost the level of renewables in Ireland has become bogged down in overly complex terms, conditions, rules and red tape. The sum total of this has been that RESS 3 delivered fewer projects and less green energy than should have been the case and done so at a higher cost to consumers.”
The average price of €100.47 per MWh in this RESS auction is a modest increase of 2.6% on the 2022 auction (€97.87), but Bolger argues that this too could have been avoided. “While the prices announced today still represent a saving when compared to wholesale markets, the savings for consumers could have been greater. This too is a factor of the complexity of the process and a poor flow of information, which has forced the price to be higher than was necessary.”
Failure to rectify these problems will, Bolger warns, make it even less likely that Ireland will reach its target of 80% renewable electricity by 2030. “The country is pursuing an aggressive but necessary target for renewables. RESS, the flagship programme, is simply not delivering fast enough for this target to be realistic. However, this can be fixed if action is taken now.”
Citing specific problems with the RESS 3 auction Bolger said “The Auction Price Cap, the maximum any developer is permitted to bid, was only published only after developers would have faced a penalty for deciding not to bid. Industry should not be expected to gamble significant sums of money with no knowledge if their investment will be viable or not.”
Another challenge faced is the lack of alignment between grid, planning and the auction process. “The developer of any renewable project wants to ensure it is up and running as soon as possible. But the reality is that delays, at the hands of state institutions, make that challenging for many. Delays in planning and receiving the required connections to the national electricity grid are entirely out of developers’ hands and entirely within the States. Yet it is the developer who will be sanctioned by the state for the state’s own failings if a delay occurs. A failure to account for these state inflicted problems will have limited the number of projects bidding in this RESS auction.”
“We are also now seeing how these systemic failures are also limiting the progress of projects that were successful in the two previous RESS auctions,” Bolger revealed. As the government continues to grapple with the high costs of energy they must focus on driving renewables. Generating more renewables in Ireland will drive down wholesale costs making energy cheaper for everyone. Failing to do so increases costs, energy insecurity and delays progress towards our climate action goals.”
Concluding Conall Bolger CEO of the Irish Solar Energy Association congratulated the successful bidders. “These developments can transform Ireland’s electricity to be cleaner and greener. The ambition and commitment to this goal shown by every renewable generator in this RESS auction should be commended.”