Minister Ryan opens first grid-scale solar project to connect to the national grid under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS)
The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, today formally opened the first grid-scale solar project to connect to the national grid under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).
Millvale solar farm, developed by Neoen, is now delivering electricity into the national grid. It is located close to Ashford in Co. Wicklow and has a generation capacity of 8MW. The farm occupies 25 hectares and has 33,600 solar modules – enough to power approximately 3,600 homes every year and avoiding 4,800 tonnes in CO2 emissions.
This is the first of many solar projects to reach commercial operation under RESS 1 – the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme – and the first of almost 600MW of solar generation capacity secured in the auction. If we also include wind projects, this is actually the third project to reach commercial operation under RESS 1.
Neoen has also secured support, under RESS 1, for two other solar farms – Hilltown and Hortland.
Commenting on the opening of Millvale solar farm Minister Ryan said:
“The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is one of the primary policies set out in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan to address Ireland’s climate challenges over the coming years. It supports the growth of the green economy, creates sustainable work opportunities and benefits citizens, as renewable energy becomes more cost effective and replaces fossil fuels such as coal and peat.”
“Historically Ireland has had a singular reliance on onshore wind for our renewable electricity. With RESS 1 we sought to create technology diversity and to promote the emerging solar industry in Ireland. I am delighted to see Millvale energise; this is Ireland’s first grid-scale solar project under RESS.”
“This is the first of many solar projects expected to energise under the RESS this year. It’s a key starting point on our journey, under the Climate Action Plan, to install up to 2.5GW of solar energy on the electricity system by 2030.”
What is the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS)?
The RESS is an auction-based scheme, which invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity. Successful applicants receive a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate. The scheme is open to a range of technologies, including wind and solar, with provisions to couple renewables and storage capability at project sites. This will broaden the renewable energy mix and enhance security of supply.
In RESS 1 – the first scheme which opened in 2020 – a standalone solar preference category was included in the auction, to allow solar projects to compete on a like-for-like basis with other solar projects, rather than competing with the well-established wind industry. Those auction results indicated that solar projects were, for the most part, able to compete on par with wind.
In RESS 2 – the second scheme – the design of the auction has been modified, removing the standalone solar preference category and, instead, utilising an Evaluation Correction Factor (ECF). The ECF is intended to reflect the relative benefits that each type of technology (and the diversity that they bring) has on system costs. The qualification process for RESS 2 is now complete and the auction opened this morning (Friday, 29th April 2022), with final results due in mid-June. It is anticipated that RESS 2 will deliver a significant increase in the proportion of renewable generation delivered by solar – by the end of 2024.
The solar capacity secured under RESS 2 is expected to contribute significantly, in the first half of the decade, towards our ambitions to connect up to 2.5GW of solar to the electricity system by 2030. These solar connections provide a predictable and clean source of generation to the grid.
Renewable electricity in the context of the Climate Action Plan
Further developing our renewable electricity generation capacity is fundamental to achieving the broader climate goals, under Climate Action Plan 2021.
Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out a goal of achieving a 51% reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and setting us on a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Key to achieving this is a target to generate up to 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by the end of this decade. The plan also projects what the relative proportions of renewable electricity will look like by 2030. It includes projections for up to 8GW of onshore wind capacity (an increase of up to 3.5GW on current connections), at least 5GW of offshore wind capacity and up to 2.5GW of solar (PV) capacity.
Moreover, the recently launched Micro-Generation Support Scheme (MSS) aims to deploy up to 380MW of new generation from renewable self-consumers (including an export payment for all micro-generators).
Substituting wind and solar for fossil fuel electricity generation will also displace emissions in other sectors, for example through the electrification of (car-based) transport and residential heating.
Reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels and boosting the Circular Economy
More broadly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent energy challenges, has underpinned the importance of accelerating the switch to indigenous, renewable sources of energy and reducing Ireland’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. Measures that reduce fossil fuel use also support the development of Ireland’s Circular Economy, by reducing our dependence on the extraction of natural resources, many of which have to be imported. In this way Ireland can reduce its exposure to complex supply chains and supply shocks.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
Further information on the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), including final terms and conditions for individual auctions and auction results, see: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/36d8d2-renewable-electricity-support-scheme/.
The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is an auction-based scheme, which invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity. Successful applicants receive a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate.
- Increasing Technology Diversity: The scheme is open to a range of technologies, including wind and solar. There are provisions to couple renewables and storage capability at project sites. This will broaden the renewable energy mix and enhance security of supply.
- Solar Preference and Evaluation Correction Factor: In RESS 1 a standalone solar preference category was included in the auction, to allow solar projects to compete on a like-for-like basis with other solar projects, rather than competing with the well-established wind industry. The auction results indicated that solar projects were, for the most part, able to compete on par with wind. In RESS 2, the auction was modified, removing the standalone solar preference category and, instead, utilising an Evaluation Correction Factor (ECF). The ECF is intended to reflect the relative benefits that each type of technology (and the diversity that they bring) has on system costs.
- Community Participation: The obligatory Community Benefit Fund (CBF) will generate a significant volume of capital for communities living in close proximity to renewable projects each year, for the duration of the support scheme. This will support local community initiatives and sustainable development goals.
The RESS received EU state aid approval in July 2020. The RESS is a product of both independent economic analysis and public participation and consultation. The development of the RESS has included an in-depth review of international best practice, across the UK, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Canada and Scotland – world leaders in community-led renewable electricity projects.
The frequency of future RESS auctions is dependent on the renewable electricity project supply pipeline, along with evolving market, locational and technological considerations.
The second of a minimum of five envisaged auctions, to occur between 2020 and 2025 to deliver on 2030 targets, is underway. These auctions will provide pathways for renewable developers, including solar and offshore wind projects through dedicated offshore auctions, to plan and develop their projects. It will also allow Ireland to take advantage of new technologies as they emerge.
A roadmap of future auctions, which sets out the indicative timelines and volumes for auctions over the coming decade (and provides clarity for developers in relation to when they need to have their projects 'auction ready'), was published in December 2021. This roadmap will be updated later this year.
‘Reduce Your Use’: Government of Ireland campaign
In other energy-related developments, the Government this week launched a new nationwide public information campaign – ‘Reduce Your Use’ – to promote and encourage efficiency and to highlight the range of supports that are available to households and businesses. The initial phase of the public information campaign will run for the next four weeks, with ads running in print, on radio and across social media. The campaign will be phased over the coming year, tailored for different seasons, activities and energy demands.
Energy efficiency advice within the campaign is provided by experts at the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). It is practical and evidenced-based, detailing what actions can help to save the most money and energy. The campaign also highlights the range of Government financial supports for households and businesses. The Government has been especially proactive in this regard, introducing a suite of targeted and universal supports that is among the most comprehensive across all EU Member States.
CONTACT DETAILS FOR FURTHER MEDIA QUERIES
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