ESB Networks criticised over solar energy applications delay

ESB Networks has been heavily criticised for failing to consider proposed solar energy projects within the agreed timeframe after it admitted its process is not designed to handle the volume of requests.

Developers of solar energy projects are required to apply for connection to the electricity network after which ESB should make a decision within 90 days.

Speaking at an Energy Cork conference on the future of solar energy in Ireland, ESB Networks renewable planning manager, Ivan Codd said more than 340 solar applications had been made to the end of 2015 but the process “is not designed to handle such large volumes or patterns of applications”.

The delay in processing the applications was heavily criticised by Amarenco Solar chief executive John Mullins.

“In September 2014, I told your staff exactly what was going to come at you [in terms of applications] and it wasn’t on the basis of me speculating, it was on the basis of what had happened in the UK and I cannot believe, in an organisation we’re all very proud of in the ESB, that you cannot supplement the resources required to do distribution analysis effectively for all these applications.

“For me, I don’t think it’s acceptable and I don’t think the [Commission for Energy Regulation] should allow it to be acceptable,” Mr Mullins said.

“It’s absolutely critical for this industry to push forward, that there’s no bottleneck in the system, and quite clearly what we’ve heard here is there is a bottleneck in the system.

"From a regulatory point of view there are timeframes and they’re not being met, so I would clearly urge the CER to ask the ESB to increase the level of resources to meet the industry requirements.”

An ESB spokesperson said the company had received more than 10 times the level of applications received in the entire of 2014 in the last six months alone and continues to process applications at about 75 locations.

“The increase in renewable energy generation sources and the desire to develop an enduring connections policy has been a key driver in the CER reviewing the existing connection policy to ensure it is fit for purpose for future network and energy requirements,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Cork County Council granted Amarenco planning for a 5MW solar farm in Kilmoney — one of six such projects in Cork for which the company has submitted planning.

The company has also said it is relocating its headquarters from Dublin to an office space on Anglesea Street in Cork City and create 10 additional jobs.


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