MORE THAN a year after a renewable energy pilot project was announced, just 1 per cent of the homes involved have been supplied with the promised “net meters” to sell electricity to the national grid.
Fine Gael energy spokesman Simon Coveney told the Dáil that people were “utterly frustrated by how long each stage is taking before smart meters will be commercial”, which would be 2012 or 2013 at the earliest.
He claimed that only 250 homes had been supplied with the meters, even though Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan announced in November 2007 that 25,000 would be provided, reducing this to 21,000 in September 2008.
The meters allowed for “micro-scale renewable energy projects in domestic settings to export electricity to the grid”.
Mr Ryan said that, despite Opposition criticism, “we are ahead of most other jurisdictions”.
Other countries “have installed smart meters but the meters were not necessarily as smart as they would have liked”. It was appropriate to get it right and “that is what we are doing”.
He said he would “refer back to the deputy on the exact number” of meters delivered to date, but he insisted that “we are on target for installing the 21,000 meters”.
People “can criticise and say we should have installed 500,000 by now but my experience with a range of different projects in which we have engaged is that one first tests the item in the real world”.
The Minister said 21,000 was not a small test but a “significant sample of the population”.
He added that he was “examining alternative ways of integrating microscale renewable energy systems into the electricity grid”.
One approach was to “provide a guaranteed price for electricity exported to the grid from microscale projects”. But electricity suppliers only wanted to buy from producers with commercial quantities.
Microscale projects required a different solution.
Mr Coveney said the ESB proposal to pay nine cent per kilowatt was low compared to other countries.
The Minister agreed, but said the nine cent was there “to break the logjam that has existed for years”, where nobody would or could buy that electricity.