Irish Govt to allow homes and farms to sell electricity back to utility firms

26 Feb 2009

Homes and farms across Ireland will soon be able to generate electricity onsite and sell it back to the national grid, as a result of measures including R&D support introduced today by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD.

Minister Ryan believes the move to create a micro-generation market will help to boost the rural economy and enable the Irish to use natural resources to bolster the economy, creating green-collar jobs in the process.

The move could lessen the country’s dependence on oil and gas from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Among the measures is a guaranteed price of 19 cent per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. This competitive feed-in tariff will apply to the first 4,000 micro-generation installations countrywide over the next three years.

Eligible installations include small-scale wind, photovoltaic, hydro and combined heat and power.

Traditionally, the electricity network was designed to accommodate the flow of electricity from large centralised plants to customers dispersed throughout the country.

Micro-generation at local level now introduces two-way flows to the electricity system. Local generators will have the ability to be paid by the ESB for electricity that is surplus to their own requirements which they export back to the national grid.

The new support price is being introduced, along with a number of other measures in the Government’s micro-generation programme including an ‘Inform and Fit’ connection policy to be introduced by ESB Networks.

This will reduce the length of time and complexity of the connection process. Sustainable Energy Ireland also has clear information explaining the connection process.

There will be R&D support in the form of grants of up to 40pc of the cost of 50 trial units (of up to 50kW) countrywide. Applications are being accepted by Sustainable Energy Ireland.

The Department of Environment has made small-scale generation from low-carbon sources exempt from planning permission. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will continue to work with the Department of Environment on planning issues surrounding renewable-energy installations.

“We are changing the rules and changing the nature of electricity generation in Ireland,” said Minister Ryan. “Before, you received your power from a central source and paid for it. Now, you can generate for yourself and be paid for the excess you don’t use.

“This type of onsite electricity generation will boost the rural economy. It will put more money into consumers’ pockets. This type of long-term investment with a guaranteed return represents the best value for spending and lending.

“All our farms and houses can be micro-generators. We can use our abundant natural resources to bolster the economy, create green-collar jobs and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.

“Every year, we send €6bn out of this country on fossil fuels. This type of generation will help reduce this dependence and this outflow of money. We do not want to be dependent on Russia or Saudi Arabia for our energy needs; we can supply our own,” the Minister said.

By John Kennedy