Richard Murphy of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, was commenting after the Irish government announced on Tuesday that it had given its approval to the RESS (31-page / 580MB PDF), which is a model for delivering an increasing proportion of Ireland's electricity needs through renewable sources. It would award electricity contracts to those involved in renewable energy projects.
RESS will help the country meet and exceed its legally binding renewable energy requirements under EU law, it said.
Under EU law, Ireland must ensure 16% and 32% of its energy requirements are met by renewable sources by 2020 and 2030 respectively, although that later target could be revised upwards under a review clause that will apply in 2023. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCAAE) said that up to 55% of Ireland's electricity use could be supplied by renewables as a result of RESS by 2030.
Businesses seeking support under RESS will have to meet "pre-qualification criteria". This includes providing "investment opportunities for communities and citizens" in their project.
Businesses will compete for electricity supply contracts through a series of auctions, the first of which is due to take place in 2019, the DCCAE said.
The terms and conditions of RESS and the scheme's exact design have still to be finalised. The finalised RESS must also be submitted to the European Commission for its approval under the State aid regime.
Ireland's minister for communications, climate action and environment Denis Naughten said: "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."
Murphy of Pinsent Masons said the introduction of the RESS will help realise the Irish government’s industrial and clean growth ambitions so long as all technologies can compete in the upcoming auctions.
"Achieving Ireland’s clean growth ambitions will not be based on a single technology solution so the detailed designed work to be undertaken needs to create the policy environment that supports a diversified mix of technologies," Murphy said. "Ireland, for example, has one of the strongest offshore wind resources in the world and yet is the only country in Northern Europe not developing offshore wind capacity. This has been largely due to the lack of any standardised support mechanism and grid access."
"The progress of the RESS auction design and implementation working group now needs to be on the critical path if we are to see the delivery of the first RESS auction in 2019. The market stands ready to deliver under the new scheme." he said.