The government of Ireland has approved the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which is expected to spur the introduction of sufficient renewable electricity generation to meet national and EU-wide renewable energy and decarbonization targets out to 2030.
The new RESS will deliver broader energy policy objectives including enhancing security of supply, diversifying the renewable technology mix, and increasing community participation in and benefit from renewable energy projects, the government said.
The scheme will be characterized by a series of renewable electricity auctions where projects bid against each other for support. The RESS has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32%, out to 2030, within a cost-effective framework, the government of Ireland said.
The government will determine the exact quantity of capacity to be procured in each auction round based on detailed analysis of project supply and demand, with plans for the first 2019 RESS to auction a capacity of 1,000 GW/hrs.
The delivery date for the projects to be approved in the first RESS auction – RESS 1 – is set for 2020, and according to the government, the new ‘technology cap’ measure will not be used for this auction.
Technologies will be allowed to participate in the RESS-1 auction based on a 3-year look back viability gap analysis – effectively making marine energy eligible to apply.
Announcing the new scheme – Denis Naughten, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE), said:
“RESS has been approved by government and I will now seek EU State Aid approval. This scheme will mark a shift from guaranteed fixed prices for renewable generators to a more market-oriented mechanism (auctions) where the cost of support will be determined by competitive bidding between renewable generators.”
The RESS will provide for a renewable electricity ambition of up to a maximum of 55% by 2030, subject to determining the cost-effective level which will be set out in the draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), the Irish government expects.
Marine energy in the mix as Ireland aims for greater diversity
The new scheme is expected to help realize Ireland’s policy objective of enhancing security of supply and broadening the renewable energy mix.
For the first time – offshore wind and solar PV industries can compete for RESS support in Ireland, and according to the RESS scheme design document “all renewable technologies will be subject to a viability gap look back analysis prior to each auction, to ensure technologies that no longer require a subsidy are ineligible but also to allow for new, nascent technologies to participate if they have become commercially viable during the lifetime of the scheme.”
Asked to clarify what this precisely means for marine energy sector in Ireland, Paul Ahern from the Electricity Policy Division at DCCAE, said: “This means that all commercial, renewable technologies that have viability gaps within a certain range will be eligible to participate in RESS auctions.”
The second RESS auction – RESS-2 – is expected to be held in 2020 and the capacity auctioned in this round will be for between 3,000 – 4,000GW/hrs.
Within RESS-2, it is proposed to use a single technology cap as an interventionist measure to deliver additional technology diversity by 2022.
“While the auction approach will provide a route to market for multiple technologies, it will do so in a competitive, cost effective framework. The use of certain ‘levers’, such as near-term delivery dates and ‘single technology caps’, will accelerate the broadening of the renewable technology mix, particularly in light of falling costs for a number of renewable technologies,” added Minister Naughten.
It may also be of interest to note that under the Ireland government’s Offshore Renewable Electricity Development Plan – OREDP – the Exchequer support for research, development and demonstration of ocean renewable energy technology is also available.
Between 2014 and 2017, capital funding of €17.7 million was allocated by DCCAE for research and development of offshore renewable energy technology, with a further €4.5 million allocated in 2018, according to Ahern.
In addition, the Prototype Development Fund, operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), provides grant aid to support developers in bringing their ocean energy devices – including tidal – from prototype to full-scale commercial viability.
Ireland fixing national climate and energy strategy
The level of ambition for 2030 and the intervening ‘trajectory years’ will be captured in the first NECP.
The analysis by SEAI of 2030 renewable energy forecast shows that, taking into account all of the measures being supported in the National Development Plan together with the EU reference rate for oil prices of $125 by 2030 and increased renewable electricity generation ambition to 55% – the national share of renewables in the overall energy mix would amount to between 24% and 26%.
This analysis work will be further refined in developing the initial draft NECP, the government said.
Detailed modelling is currently underway with SEAI, University College Cork (UCC), and Technical Research and Modelling Group (TRAM) regarding options for decarbonization of electricity, heat and transport. The findings will inform future decisions about auction capacity, the government noted.