Irish government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) prioritises technology diversity



The government this week published its High Level Design paper on the new Renewables support mechanism, RESS, which will replace the previous approach that guaranteed fixed prices for the generation of renewable electricity.   It had been well signalled that RESS would be an auction-based system, whereby the level of support would be determined by competitive bidding between renewable energy generators. However, there was less clarity on the approach to support a mix of renewable technologies, leading to much speculation in the industry. This is addressed, with the likely approach being a “cap on single technology” in the auction process, which will put an upper limit on the proportion of capacity that will be available for a single technology. This will favour the less-established technologies of Solar PV and Off-shore Wind. The independent economic analyses that informed the design of RESS had noted the advantages of increasing technology diversity, which is an explicit policy objective in the government paper, while also noting that additional costs associated with achieving this, viz. “RES-E diversity… doesn’t come for free”.

The first auction (RESS-1) will take place in 2019 but will not include a single technology cap. It will prioritise projects that can be build and energised by the end of 2020, with the aim of closing the gap on Ireland’s 2020 RES targets. A total of 1,000 GW/hrs will be auctioned off in RESS-1, which according to scenarios in the government paper, would require between 500 – 1,000 installed MW of renewables. The second auction (RESS-2), in 2020, will include the single technology cap and will be for a total of 3,000 GW/hr and can be expected to include a significant amount of Solar PV and Offshore Wind.

Increased community participation in, and ownership of, renewable energy projects are incorporated in the design of RESS and this would be expected to have a beneficial impact on renewable energy projects across the country, especially in terms of community acceptance. After RESS-1, it is proposed that between 5 – 15% of each auction volume would be set aside for “community led projects”, with the specific policy objective of “community ownership of renewable electricity projects”.

The government document is available to download here.

Fehily Timoney Fehily Timoney