The Government has approved the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The new Scheme will incentivise the introduction of sufficient renewable electricity generation to meet national and EU-wide renewable energy and decarbonisation targets out to 2030.

In addition, the 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.

Announcing the new Scheme the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten 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 is a critical step in bringing Ireland to a leadership role in relation to renewable energy, climate action, and energy efficiency. Communities are central to the design of the new Scheme and this will have a transformative impact on renewable energy projects right across the country.”

Main Elements of the new Scheme

Community Participation: A Community-led category and community capacity building measures will provide opportunities for communities to play their part in Ireland’s renewable energy transition.

Projects looking for support under the new RESS will need to meet pre-qualification criteria including offering the community an opportunity to invest in and take ownership of a portion of renewable projects in their local area. A national register of community benefit payments will also be established.

The development of RESS included an in-depth study of international best practice, across Denmark, Germany, Canada and Scotland. These countries are world leaders in community-led renewable electricity projects.

Increasing Technology Diversity: The new Scheme will help realise the Government’s policy objective of enhancing security of supply and broadening the renewable energy mix. As renewable technologies mature and costs fall, Ireland is well placed to take advantage and greatly diversify its renewable portfolio.

Minister Naughten added: “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.”

Delivering Ireland’s contribution to renewable electricity targets out to 2030 and close the gap on 2020 renewable electricity targets: RESS has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32%, out to 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework.

The new scheme is framed within the context of Ireland’s effort to meet it’s 2020 renewable energy targets and the European Union’s Clean Energy Package, in particular the recast Renewable Energy Directive and the development of Ireland’s draft National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).

Renewable Electricity Auctions: RESS auctions will be held at frequent intervals throughout the lifetime of the scheme. This will allow Ireland to take advantage of falling technology costs and by not auctioning all the required capacity at once, we will not be ‘locking in’ higher costs for consumers for the entirety of the scheme.

The Scheme will provide for a renewable electricity (RES-E) 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).

RESS auctions will be designed in line with trajectory targets identified in Ireland’s NECP. In addition, the first RESS auction in 2019 will deliver ‘shovel ready’ projects, reducing the gap to 2020. Ireland’s current RES-E target is 40% by 2020.  RESS auctions will also assist in the early delivery for our trajectory to 2030.