It is “absolutely critical” to remove the barriers that are preventing farmers from taking part in the microgeneration scheme and selling electricity to the national grid, say Green Party TDs and senators.

They called on their Government colleague, Fine Gael’s Minister of State for Local Government and Planning Peter Burke to “urgently progress planning legislation to enable farmers to benefit.”

The Green Party has warned that a proposed overhaul of the planning regulations it has brought forward to make it easier for farmers to participate in the microgeneration scheme is “currently stalled.”

They highlighted that Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly brought a bill to the Seanad in June 2021, which would introduce planning exemptions for solar panels. They said that this bill would mean planning permission would no longer be required for larger installations of solar panels across farm buildings.

Speaking on Monday, Senator O’Reilly said: “We have been working hard, through this bill, to open up opportunities for farms and public buildings to install enough panels to finally power some or all of their electricity needs and to sell any excess electricity that they generate back to the grid. However, a number of delays have set back this straightforward update to legislation.”

The party’s parliamentary members made their remarks and calls for progress on the planning legislation following a commitment from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on Monday to bring about better and more stable income streams to farmers through the roll out of the microgeneration scheme.

Introduced by Minister Eamon Ryan

The Green Party pointed out that the microgeneration scheme referred to by Tánaiste Varadkar was first introduced by Minister Eamon Ryan and described how it has seen more than 21,000 electricity customers already signed up to sell power from their solar panels back to the national grid from July.

Green TDs and Senators say there is “huge potential” for farmers to benefit from this scheme.

The Green Party says it wants to see solar panels on every farm building in Ireland. \ Odhran Ducie

Green Party spokesperson for Planning and Local Government, Steven Matthews TD, said: “Planning laws that restrict the use of solar panels on farms and other locations such as schools and community buildings, have all but stopped development and need to be urgently overhauled.

“At the moment, farmers need to seek planning permission to install even one solar panel and this can take months of paperwork and formalities. There are also restrictions on the size and number of panels that can be used, and this means they are too small for the needs of the building.”

‘Every farm building’

Green Party spokesperson for Rural Development, Senator Róisín Garvey, said she wants “to see solar panels on the roof of every farm building in Ireland.”

“We could finally see farmers reduce their energy bill and get paid for the excess electricity they produce through the microgeneration scheme introduced by Minister Eamon Ryan.

“There is huge potential for farmers and rural communities to play a major role in meeting our climate targets, as well as benefit from reduced energy costs. Now we just need action on planning legislation to make this happen,” she said.

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