Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources Denis Naughten is expected to dampen the expectations of solar energy developers when he delivers a keynote address to the Irish branch of the Energy Institute in Dublin on Wednesday.
Solar energy is currently receiving renewed interest around the world, following claims from the industry itself that costs of solar photovoltaic technology fell by 80 per cent from 2008 to 2013.
But Mr Naughten will tell the Energy Institute – an international body for professionals in the energy field – that there is already enough solar power applications in the pipeline to provide “winter levels” , more than 4000MW of the Republic’s entire energy requirement.
He will also point out that should such levels of solar energy be deployed, it would replace all other generation, including wind.
In a further dampening of expectations, Mr Naughten is also expected to point out that the approval of all solar power applications would be very expensive to consumers, as renewable energy is subsidised through the Government’s Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (Refit), which is a levy on all electricity bills.
Currently, the levy costs the average household about €70 per year. Mr Naughten has said if all the solar projects in the pipeline are connected, the levy would be “a multiple of €70” – possibly up to four times that amount.
However, the Government’s approach to renewable energy is not all gloom and Mr Naughten will express confidence that Ireland is on track to meet the target of having 40 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020.
While he does see a role for solar in the renewable energy mix, Mr Naughten is expected to oppose large increases in electricity bills through higher overall costs for subsidies for renewable energy.
A new public consultation on the support system for renewable energy is to be carried out early next year.
According to the Department of Energy, dependence on fossil fuels is to be reduced by the growth of renewable energy sources, but fossil fuels – in particular gas and oil – will remain “an integral element of our energy system”.
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