Large-scale Government investment in renewable energy needs to prioritise smaller projects including those on farms, the industry body representing suppliers and installers of equipment has said.

"The Government will have to prioritise and prime the actions needed by homes, businesses and farms with grants and tax incentives in the next budget to incentivise the retrofitting homes, installing renewable technologies and helping businesses and farms adapt new practices and processes to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions,” said Pat Smith, chair of the Micro Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton will announce a national plan to tackle climate change in the coming weeks across all Government departments and agencies. Smith said the country's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1m tonnes equivalent carbon dioxide every year for the next 30 years could cost €1bn per year.

Low interest loans

“Government must also ensure that there are easily accessible low-interest loans at sub 3% levels to assist homes, businesses and farms address these issues in a planned and economically sustainable way,” Smith said.

He added that access to grid connections for producers of renewable electricity should be reformed. "For example, ESB Networks currently process a maximum of 30 grid applications a year when it is hundreds of connections that will be required."

Smith also called for free grid connections for micro-scale generators, such as rooftop solar panels, and opportunities for farmers and other building owners to export part of the surplus energy into the national grid.

EU directive

Meanwhile, the Council of European Ministers formally adopted the final set of rules forming part of the Clean Energy Package this Wednesday. These include the already-adopted Renewable Energy Directive, which will force all EU member states to allow citizens to sell part of the renewable energy they produce into the grid within two years.

Read more in our focus on renewable energy in this week's Irish Farmers Journal.

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