Solar energy will contribute up to 10% to the first auction of Ireland’s Renewable Electricity Support Plan (RESS), according to new details published on Monday.
The expected plan, which gained government approval in July 2018, is derived from the Irish Climate Action Plan and is designed to help the country achieve 70% renewable energy by 2030 in what will be a major transition, as the country currently relies on fossil fuels for 86% of its energy.
Communications, Climate Action and Environment Minister Richard Bruton said Ireland would move away from peat and coal to technologies such as wind and solar. “The Renewable Energy Support Plan is a government policy designed to meet our commitments to decarbonize our electricity grid, harness our natural resources and bring renewable energy to the heart of our communities,” he said.
Subject to state aid approval, the first auction will be in early 2020 and will be up to 3,000 GWh of electricity. At least 1,000 GWh of energy must be contracted. If solar energy were to increase by 10% at auction, solar capacity in the range of 100 MW to 300 MW could be contracted.
More auctions will be held depending on the renewable energy portfolio, but the government estimates that there will be four between 2020 and 2027 to meet the 2030 target and meet the target of allocating around 12,500 GWh in five rounds.
Applications to pre-qualify for the auction are expected to open early next year – a possible window around March 2020 has already been discussed – as the auction is expected to take place in June 2020.
Several projects are already earmarked to participate in the RESS, including the 320 MW portfolio recently acquired by Statkraft in the country.
The plan includes a mandatory contribution to the Community Benefits Fund. Those involved will have to pay a minimum of €2 per megawatt hour each year, which should generate an estimated €6 million for communities living close to the projects.
Irish citizens’ or communities’ projects are particularly invited to the RESS, and the government says they will prioritise those living close to the projects.
Bruton said they were interested in having communities involved in the projects. “The Government agreed to make this a strong element of the Scheme. I am pleased to confirm that work to establish an enabling framework to support projects and community participation is underway and will intensify in the New Year.