Renewable energy programme: A small step to solar power

Ireland, it’s fair to say, has not been one of Europe’s pioneers in the shift to solar power. Enthusiasm has been low-level, perhaps because our land — this spectacular summer apart — is not normally notably sun-drenched.

The volatile economics of the growing solar power market, along with arguments across Europe about the role of subsidies, have chilled attitudes to investment, not only in Ireland but also in those parts of Europe with markedly sunnier climates.

Against this background, anything that fosters the interest of energy consumers — who can also be power producers — in solar is to be welcomed. The Government’s newly-announced incentives encouraging homeowners to install solar panels and a battery storage kit is a small step on the road to a serious renewable energy programme.

Eligible households, says the Climate Action and Environment ministry, will be able to cut their electricity bill by approximately €220.

That the pilot scheme disappoints the Green Party isn’t surprising. Like Oliver Twist, Green fundamentalists always want more; much more than mainstream parties, mired in the messy business of running governments and winning elections, can give. They are, however, right to flag up the shortcomings in what the Government would like us to see as a plan that will turn every home into a little power station. The grants for solar panels will not be available for owners of commercial buildings — factories and warehouses — and households will not be able to sell the power they produce to the national grid.

It’s a work in progress.

Meanwhile, the Communications, Climate Action and Environment ministry could communicate information that might help to dispel Ireland’s solar scepticism. 60% of this island’s solar energy comes from sunlight hidden by overcast skies. Not convinced?

Try this: in large parts of Ireland, the potential for solar energy matches that of Germany, where it also rains but which is now getting almost 7% of its electricity consumption from the sun.

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