The Renewables Obligation (RO) was the UK’s first and longest-running policy mechanism, introduced to facilitate the growth of renewable energy technologies in 2002 across England, Wales and Scotland, and in 2005 in Northern Ireland. The RO requires electricity suppliers to source a specific amount of their supply from renewable sources. Renewable Obligations Certificates (ROCs) are issued per MWh of electricity generated by a renewable energy source, such as a wind turbine, solar PV or hydroelectric plant These ROCs are then sold to electricity suppliers, who present these to demonstrate they have met their requirement. Recent studies have shown that the RO has led to an increase in the levels of investment being placed in the development of renewable energy technologies over the lifetime of the scheme (1).
The support offered by the UK Government was exclusively for technologies located within one of the UK’s devolved administrations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Therefore, this support cannot be received if the technology is located in the Republic of Ireland. However, this has not prevented the Republic of Ireland from investing in the development of renewable energy technologies.
The Republic of Ireland’s Potential
The island of Ireland has abundant natural resources in wind energy with some of the highest wind speeds across Europe. The Republic of Ireland (ROI) has made significant process in developing its offshore wind industry, with 25.2MW installed in 2013 (2). However, there remains significant potential for the island of Ireland to absorb large amounts of electricity generated from renewable sources.
In 2008, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in ROI and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (now replaced by the Department for the Economy) in NI, conducted an all-island study, which suggested that investment in renewable energy technologies could allow for more than 42% of all-island demand to be met, including offshore wind technology, by 2020 (3). However, to achieve this, there needs to be complementary actions and policy to facilitate further development of renewable energy technology in both ROI and NI.
The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes were available in ROI to support the production of renewable electricity. This scheme guaranteed a minimum price for electricity exported to the grid over 15 years. The scheme closed to new applicants in 2015.
In 2019, a new scheme has been proposed and is under development, the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS). The focus of this scheme is cost-effectiveness and aims to address the following objectives;
- Community participation and support
- Increase technology diversity
- Ambitious renewable electricity policy up to 2030
- Energy security and sustainability
A stakeholder briefing took place in November 2019 for updates on the status of the project.
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) has been designed to support the use of renewable energy technologies to replace fossil fuel heating systems. It aims to assist with the installation and operating costs of these renewable technologies over fossil fuel systems.
The scheme is made up of two support mechanisms:
- Biomass boiler and anaerobic digestion heating systems operational support
- Installation grants for electric heat pumps.
You can find out more information and how to apply, at the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland’s (SEAI) website.
Biofuels are renewable fuels that are sourced from biomass, and can be liquid or gas. The use of biofuels reduces the dependency on imported fossil fuels and helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Biofuels Obligation Scheme was introduced in 2010 and required that providers of transport fuels must meet a certain percentage of environmentally sustainable biofuels within their fuel mix.
Within the Republic of Ireland, there is a target to have all new vehicles sold to be zero-emissions or capable of zero emissions by 2030. The uptake of electric vehicles will be paramount to meeting this target. There is support available through the SEAI, for grants of up to €5,000 towards the purchase of an electric vehicle. As the threat of climate change looms, the development of renewable energy policy is one of the most important methods of causing changes in behaviour and is needed to reach the ambitious targets set by the Irish government.
Find out where Ireland’s energy comes from in our blog post or to read more about renewable transport, why not have a look at our hydrogen fuel or electric vehicles blog.
(1) Bolton, R., Foxon, T.J. and Hall, S. (2016) ‘Energy transitions and uncertainty: Creating low carbon investment opportunities in the UK electricity sector’, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 34 (8), p. 1387 – 1403
(2) Mc Garrigle, E.V., Deane, J.P. and Leahy, P.G. (2013) ‘How much wind energy will be curtailed on the 2020 Irish power system?’, Renewable Energy, 55, p. 544 – 553.
(3) Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. (2008) ‘All Island Grid Study Work Stream 4. Analysis of impacts and benefits’, Dublin.