HOUSEHOLDS COULD soon be receiving a cheque rather than a bill from the ESB under a new electricity-generation scheme announced yesterday by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan.
Home and landowners are being encouraged to set up their own small micro-generation units under the initiative, which will enable them to generate electricity to power their own homes and sell any excess energy back into the national grid.
Mr Ryan announced that the first 4,000 people to install small-scale wind turbines, solar panels or hydro-power generators would be offered 19 cent per kilowatt hour, up to 5c more than it costs to power homes, for any surplus energy they sell back into the grid over the next three years.
Ireland is considered to have some of the best energy-producing winds in Europe, and a high percentage of the population lives in one-off houses on sites suitable for wind-energy generation.
Mr Ryan said the initiative could change the nature of electricity generation in Ireland and help reduce the State’s €6 billion a year spend on fossil fuels.
“Before you received your power from a central source and paid for it,” he said. “Now you can generate electricity to power your own home, and when you generate extra power you can expect a cheque rather than a bill in the post from the ESB.”
Mr Ryan said with the right supports Ireland could use its abundant natural resources to bolster the economy, create green-collar jobs and help lift the State out of recession.
He said creating green jobs and wealth generation was the best and most sustainable way to reverse the nation’s economic fortunes.
“What we have to do is replace the lending that took place in the whole construction sector in recent years with lending in areas like this where there is a real measured return for supply.
“There are good, sustainable long-term jobs in green energy installation and maintenance businesses, and that is where my mind is focused in the present climate in terms of trying to get the country out of our economic crisis.”
Under the scheme, small, low-emission energy-generation units are to be exempt from planning permission, and the ESB is to introduce a connection policy to reduce the length and complexity of the process, according to Mr Ryan.
The Commission for Energy Regulation last week announced that micro-generated electricity would be purchased for 9c per kilowatt hour. ESB Networks will contribute an additional 10c per kilowatt for the first 4,000 users.
It is estimated that setting up a micro-generation unit costs between €17,000 and €30,000.
Quentin Gargan of Turbotricity, an Irish company developing household wind turbines, believes the move will provide an enormous boost to Ireland’s green-collar economy.
Mr Gargan said the tariff offered would make wind turbines viable in sites that have good wind conditions, but he warned those interested in the scheme to assess their site before deciding.
“A turbine needs to be wide open to wind from any direction between southwest and northwest. Turbulence from buildings or hedges upwind of it will decimate the productivity of any wind turbine.”
Irish Farmers Association vice-president Seán O’Leary described the announcement as an important first step, but said the tariff offered for micro-generation must be increased to match prices paid in Germany and France.