€1bn needed to make Ryan's solar energy pledge a reality, says industry body

€1bn needed to make Ryan's solar energy pledge a reality, says industry body

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan's pledge 'runs the risk of being nothing more than a throwaway soundbite' withour funding, says MREF chairman Pat Smith. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

A pledge by Eamon Ryan to ramp up solar energy to power the country by 2025 would be "nothing more than a throwaway soundbite" without a €1bn financial package to support the sector, a lobby group has stated.

The Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) was reacting to the environment minister's claim that "by 2025, there will be sunny afternoons when we are generating enough solar electricity to power the entire country".

There has been a broad welcome from renewable energy bodies to the minister's pledge for 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity by the time this Government finishes its term, but the MREF was cautious.

MREF chairman Pat Smith said Ireland is at least a decade behind other European countries in the rollout of solar PV technology. He added that Government commitment is long overdue.

Solar panels being added to a house roof Picture: iStock
Solar panels being added to a house roof Picture: iStock

“While Minister Ryan’s commitment to solar energy is very welcome, it runs the risk of being nothing more than a throwaway soundbite unless it is matched with a €1bn package of grant and premium tariff financial supports to assist all stakeholders to participate in the shift to renewables and make this a reality over the next decade,” he said.

He claimed small businesses were "aghast" at a recent grant offer for smaller solar projects, saying it excluded larger installations that would put off up to 90% of applicants.

Red tape and delays are also issues that need addressing, he said.

'Solar revolution'

In contrast, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) was bullish about Mr Ryan's announcement, saying there are "record numbers of individuals and organisations seeking to participate in the solar revolution".

ISEA chief executive Conall Bolger said: “Solar energy can play a major part of Ireland’s clean energy future.

The minister has presented a challenge, one which the industry is ready to accept."

According to ISEA estimates, there is 640MW of solar currently in train, with just over 1,500MW contracted to deliver by 2025, while a further 5,000MW of projects hold planning permission.

Solar energy is rapidly gaining across Europe, data shows.

Ember, an independent energy think-tank that uses data-driven insights to shift the world from coal to clean electricity, says that the EU generated a record 12% of its electricity from solar from May to August 2022, helping to avoid a potential €29bn in fossil gas imports.

From May to August, the EU generated a record 99.4 terawatt (TW) hours of electricity from solar power — up from 9% last summer. Solar surpassed the share of wind (12%) and hydro (11%) in the power mix and was not far from coal’s 16%, Ember said.

“Europe is currently facing an energy crisis of unprecedented proportions,” Ember senior energy and climate data analyst, Paweł Czyżak, said.

"It is at this time that solar energy truly shined, delivering record-high generation across the summer of 2022, helping keep the lights on and reducing the EU’s now critical gas consumption."

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