Solar, wind and community energy projects set to deliver €1.4bn in investment and 1,000 jobs after Government approves renewable energy auction results

Eighty Two new renewable energy projects are set to go ahead after the government approved the results of the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Eamon Ryan T.D. today (11 September 2020), announced the final results of the auction which includes solar, wind and community energy projects.

Renewable electricity is a central element of our action on Climate disruption, ensuring that we are on a pathway to meet our ambitious climate targets. The RESS scheme not only clearly sets us on that pathway, but lays the foundations of a thriving and cost effective renewable electricity market that supports the growth of the green economy, creates sustainable work opportunities, and ultimately benefits the consumer as the renewables become more and more cost effective.

This RESS scheme will support an investment in Ireland of over €1.4Bn and support the recovery by creating roughly 1,000 jobs. As part of the July Stimulus package the Government allocated funding for green apprenticeships, which will be needed to support these investments and will provide a path for transition from brown to green for many Irish communities, particularly in the Midlands.

Speaking at the announcement today (Friday 11 September), Minister Ryan said:

“I am delighted to welcome the final results of the first auction under the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. The first RESS auction provides us with a platform for rapid deployment of onshore wind and solar projects at scale and at least cost, replacing fossil fuels on our energy grid. The results are very competitive and represent a significant saving on previous support schemes”.

Solar projects will play a critical role in diversifying our renewable generation portfolio for the period out to 2030.

“We have exceeded our target for Community projects participation. Seven communities are being supported to produce their own power and share in the ownership of Ireland’s energy revolution, while inspiring others to follow. We expect that our next auction will have a higher share of community-based renewables.”

Five solar energy and two onshore wind community projects were successful in RESS-1. These projects are located across three provinces in counties Kilkenny, Galway, Mayo, Wexford, Clare and Cork. The projects will be owned in the majority by Communities and the revenues from their operation will be cycled back into those communities.

Speaking today at the announcement of the successful RESS-1 bidders, JP Prendergast, Chairman of the Claremorris and Western District Energy Coop, said:

“We are so proud to be putting a solar farm, which is 100% community-owned, on to what was once a dumping ground – turning it from a brown site to green. We hope we, in partnering with Mayo County Council and working with Community Power, can provide a model to other communities for what can be achieved. The big win for us here, because of RESS-1, is that it has given us credibility and empowered us. We can now show other communities just what is possible.”

Also speaking at the announcement, Gráinne Blount, Development Manager of Natural Forces said:

“The success of the community category in RESS1 has paved the way for communities to be involved in the energy transition with real community ownership of energy projects. Communities we are working with are hugely excited at the opportunity to own the energy projects where they live, they see this as an opportunity to improve the lives of those living in the community and for communities to create the future they want.”

The costs of wind and solar power are lower than ever and continue to drop due to efficiencies in the supply chain and technological improvements. The cost of these technologies in RESS are already getting closer to the wholesale electricity price and will frequently be lower than the wholesale price at a point in time. Wind and solar have very low operational costs associated with them. It has been shown both in Ireland and around the world that increasing the quantity of low operational cost generators on the system lowers the wholesale price.

The Programme for Government recognises the importance of community involvement in energy projects. The first RESS auction includes mandatory community benefit funds for all projects. The community benefit fund under RESS-1 will deliver approximately €4.5million a year to sustainable community initiatives targeted at those communities living in close proximity to the RESS-1 Projects.  The SEAI has already begun work on identifying prioritiy projects.

Additional community policies and supports are specified in the State Aid including: financial support for community-led projects, mandatory community benefit funds, investment opportunities for communities and citizens, and additional community categories for future RESS auctions.

Notes to the Editor: 

The seven successful community projects are:

Project NameCompany NameTechnologyOutputCounty
Ballytobin Solar PVBallytobin Solar Limited (Tom Bruton)Solar4Kilkenny
Barnderg Solar FarmTemplederry Energy Resources Ltd (John Fogarty)Solar4Galway / Mayo
Clooncon East Single WTGClooncon East Single WTG Limited (Sean Molloy)Onshore Wind0.9Galway
Davidstown SolarDavidstown Renewables Ltd (Joseph Hennessy)Solar4.95Wexford
Dooleeg More WindfarmCEARTH LTD (Declan Collins)Onshore Wind2.5Mayo
Lisduff Solar ParkTEMPLEDERRY ENERGY RESOURCES LTD (JP Prendergast)Solar4Clare
Lurrig Solar FarmI.Q Solar Limited (Michael Quirk)Solar4Cork
  • 2,237GWh of the 2,557GWh bids submitted have been identified as winners. This equates to a potential saving of approximately 671kt of CO2 per year (Source: SEAI) from RESS-1 renewable projects. This accounts for approximately 10% of the amount required to meet the 2030 targets.
  • 82 renewable electricity projects were successful in the RESS auction with (479MW of onshore wind and 796MW of solar). Approximately 160 new wind turbines will be constructed and approximately 1,750 hectares of solar panels.
  • The average weighted bid price for the technology neutral auction was €74.08 per MWh. This represents significant savings on previous schemes. Unlike previous schemes, renewable generators will be required to pay back to electricity customers when market prices are high, the bid prices are also fixed over the lifetime of the support and no payments will be made during negative market price periods. The combination of these factors means better value for the electricity customer. 
  • RESS unlike previous support schemes mandates the generators to pay back to the PSO when the wholesale price exceeds their bid price. This gives renewable generators the stability to obtain finance and develop their projects but mitigates the risk of excess revenues. 
  • In recent weeks, a number of large multi-nationals have signed agreements to take unsubsidised electricity from onshore wind farms. These agreements are welcome and show that RESS and Government supports are not inhibiting a subsidy-free renewable electricity sector.
  • The RESS policy includes a community enabling framework. Since the announcement of the provisional results in July, the SEAI has reached out to its Sustainable Energy Community Network to identify and prioritise 20 future RESS community projects for immediate high level feasibility study support.
  • Solar Preference categories: RESS-1 included the use of a solar preference category, at approximately 10% of the auction volume. Solar energy accounted for approximately 34% of the overall auction energy volume, the majority of this portion was awarded in the technology neutral category with solar energy proving very competitive.
  • Community led category: RESS-1 included the use of a 30Gwh preference category for community projects, approximately 1% of the auction volume. Community energy accounted for approximately 1.5% of the overall successful auction volume with seven projects identified as provisional winners. This will allow communities to develop their own renewable energy projects and sell the energy back to the grid.
  • The frequency of future RESS auctions is dependent on the renewable electricity project supply pipeline. It is envisaged that a minimum of four auctions will occur between 2020 and 2025 to deliver on the 2030 targets. This will provide pathways for renewable developers including offshore wind projects as it sets out the indicative timelines and volumes for auctions over the coming decade and provides clarity for developers in relation to when they need to have their projects ‘auction ready’.  It will also allow Ireland to take advantage of new technologies as they emerge.
  • Full details of the results can be found here.