Solar panel limit-lifting key part of government formation talks

FF, FG and Greens discuss details of coalition with focus on climate change policies

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: Some Green sources say he has had  huge support since an issue around leadership arose. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: Some Green sources say he has had huge support since an issue around leadership arose. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Restrictions on the amount of solar panels which can be placed on the roofs of homes and businesses will be significantly eased under plans to increase energy efficiency being discussed in government formation talks.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens are continuing their coalition talks and all sides hope a draft programme for government can be concluded by the end of next week

A two-hour session on climate change on Thursday mostly discussed energy and governance issues around the implementation of climate change policies.

Reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions by an average of 7 per cent annually is the key policy goal of the Greens in coalition talks.

Sources said the focus on Thursday was largely on renewable energy, such as how to achieve an ambition to go further than the current government pledge that 70 per cent of the State’s electricity supply will come from renewable sources by 2030.

Other areas seen as key to achieving the 7 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, such as transport and agriculture, have not yet been the subject of detailed policy negotiations.

It is understood that most of the proposals discussed on Thursday were regarding changes in regulations or legislation. It is expected a new Marine Bill will be a priority for a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael-Green Party government aimed at encouraging more offshore wind energy generation.

Rooftop systems

There was also an emphasis on how to encourage a greater use of solar energy in homes and businesses, and creating a mechanism for allowing people to sell energy back to the national grid.

The Green Party general election manifesto committed to “removing the current limits of 50 per cent/12sq m roof space for solar panels”.

It also said communities and households should be empowered “to install 700,000 rooftop solar PV [photovoltaic] systems in Irish homes and on 55,000 commercial premises by 2030”.

It said: “This will provide for 5 per cent of our electricity needs. It will be achieved by direct installation on public buildings and by changing building regulations to promote the installation of PV panels during any major renovation.”

A national ban on the burning of smoky coal was also discussed on Thursday. This policy is favoured by the Greens and Fianna Fáil and was pursued by the Fine Gael-Independent minority government in the last Dáil but ran into legal difficulties.

Meanwhile, Green Party senator Pauline O’Reilly has said the “promising” government formation talks calls into question why the Greens should change leader now.

Leadership contest

Party deputy leader Catherine Martin continued her work as the Greens’ lead negotiator in the talks a day after she said she was giving “serious consideration” to standing against Eamon Ryan for the position of leader.

Ms Martin and Mr Ryan continued their work as usual on Thursday, according to party sources. Ms Martin has said, however, that any leadership contest in the Greens should wait until after the conclusion of the government formation talks.

Ms O’Reilly said the Greens had seen a significant increase in their numbers of TDs, councillors and senators, adding that this was “not the time” for a change of leader.

Some Green sources said Mr Ryan had received huge support since the leadership issue arose earlier this week and claimed some people had been making soundings across the party on behalf of Ms Martin in recent weeks.

Green rules stipulate that a leadership contest must be held within six months of a general election. The election took place on February 8th.

Green Party chair Hazel Chu, a councillor for the Pembroke Ward on Dublin City Council, said it was an “open contest”.

“It is democratic organisation. We don’t prevent anyone who wants to run from running.”