People and groups who generate renewable electricity will be able to sell their excess energy to the national grid “within months”, the Minister for Environment and Climate has pledged.
Eamon Ryan said yesterday that his department was now in a position to allow microgenerated electricity to be sold to the State in January 2022.
He said that one of the key things that came out of a recently published Eirgrid study was the need for microgeneration.
“For too long it has been put back, delayed and prevented from being delivered.
“We are on the cusp of delivering it within months,” he said.
Individuals, groups, businesses and communities who can generate their own power through wind, solar, and biofuel use have until now had no outlet for any excess energy they have produced.
Mr Ryan told the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change that the situation was now changing and would happen in three phases.
He said that in the first phase, people would be able to sell power back to the grid at the wholesale market rate.
“The second phase is to allow community energy or a farm or school or a business to invest in large scale microgeneration and get a steady price for it that economically works.
He said the third phase for larger projects of up to a megawatt would take longer.
Mr Ryan was discussing the outcome of the Cop26 global summit on climate change, as well as the Government’s Climate Action Plan and carbon budget with members of the committee, which is chaired by the Limerick TD Brian Leddin.
In response to Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan’s question about practical measures in the climate plan, Mr Ryan cited microgeneration and also anaerobic digestion.
He said that both new processes would have huge potential for diversification of farming, as well as alternative sources of income for farms.
Describing the moves as a “citizen’s revolution”, Mr Ryan said he could see a situation where half the grass in a farm was used for anaerobic digestion while the other half was used for cattle. He said the slurry from the cattle would also feed into the anaerobic digestion system.
He said there would be a smaller number of cattle and a reduction in emissions but an increase in income. He conceded it would not be cheap to effect those changes in emissions.
He indicated these diversifying measures might be a way of dealing with herd numbers without loss of income to farming.
Later, he was challenged by People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith for the Climate Action Plan’s failure to address the issues of the national herd, saying the plan had remained silent on it.
Mr Ryan said he agreed with Sinn Féin TD Lynn Boylan, who argued against any LNG terminal in Ireland, saying there was no need for them. However, when she said if there was any impediment legally to ban them, he did not answer, saying he was not an expert in the law on the matter.
He also agreed with Ms Boylan about the diluting of the language to phase out coal in the final Cop26 agreement, describing it “gut-wrenching”.
In reply to questions from Sinn Féin TD Darren O’Rourke Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly Mr Ryan expressed optimism that the ambitious targets for ocean wind energy (of 5 gigawatts) would be achieved, citing rapid advances in technology.
In relation to the transport goals set out in the plan, he agreed that the aspiration of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 was ambitious. However, he said that EVs were not the “be all and the end all” of transport emissions, saying the biggest challenges were presented by freight, marine and aviation.