All schools to get free solar panels to help tackle energy bills

Solar energy will cut carbon emissions and feed national grid when up to 4,000 schools are closed during summer months

All schools in Ireland will have an opportunity to receive free solar panels to help reduce their energy bills and cut carbon emissions over the coming 12 months. The move is part of a €50 million climate action scheme, first announced in last year’s budget, which is finally due to get under way on a phased basis.

Minister for Education Norma Foley and Minister of State Ossian Smyth are due to confirm details of the “solar for schools” scheme on Thursday. All primary and second level schools will have the opportunity to apply in stages between now and the end of 2024.

The funding is due to cover the cost of buying and installing solar panels across up to 4,000 schools. The scheme will fund six kilowatts of roof-mounted solar PV, which equates to about 16 solar panels.

Connection to the grid will be included which will allow unused solar energy to feed to the energy grid when schools are closed. This will allow schools to be compensated for renewable exports to the grid.


This programme is a joint venture between the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) and the Department of Education (DoE) and will form part of the Government response to meeting the 2030 and 2050 climate action targets for the school sector.

When complete, the initiative is expected to help schools reduce their energy costs and for the education sector to meet its emissions reduction targets, currently set at a 51 per cent reduction by 2030.

There are about 3,200 primary schools and 700 secondary schools across the country. Currently, only 5 per cent of primary schools and 10 per cent of secondary schools have solar panels already installed.

The initiative has been held up due to the need to create a “streamlined and straightforward” approach across the entire school network, according to Department of Education officials.

Any moves to cut energy bills will be welcomed by schools which say they have been struggling with high energy bills.

The Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA), which represents most primary schools, has said many schools are reliant on voluntary contributions from parents to plug school finances due, in part, to rising energy bills. An analysis of the financial accounts of more than 400 primary schools across the free education sector indicates that parents paid about €54 million in 2020-2021 to schools, according to a report by accounting firm Grant Thornton.

This is greater than Department of Education data, which states that both primary and secondary schools received €28 million in voluntary contributions.

Official figures, however, exclude money paid by parents in fundraising and school charges for expenses such as photocopying and art materials.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent