Shift to auctions leaves Irish wind vulnerable to mid-term slump

The Irish government has approved a new renewables auction scheme but the wind industry trade body has warned of a gap in installations.

Ireland has added around 50MW of new wind so far in 2019, according to Windpower Intelligence
Ireland has added around 50MW of new wind so far in 2019, according to Windpower Intelligence

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction will begin by increasing renewables capacity in Ireland by 30%. It aims to get renewables to 70% of the country’s demand by 2030. 

It plans to hold four auctions between 2020 and 2027 to deliver the targets, the Irish government said. It will be open to onshore and offshore wind, as well as solar, in a bid to diversify the country’s energy mix. 

However, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), the current timeline will see a vacuum between the completion of projects under the current, outgoing support scheme and the successful projects in the new system.

"Ireland is already far behind on cutting our CO2 emissions and we are looking at a gap of 18 months between the completion of the last wind farms under the old REFIT support scheme and the connection of new projects under the RESS," said IWEA CEO David Connolly. 

"Anything the government can do to get RESS up and running more quickly will save time, money and CO2 emissions," Connolly added.

Lessons could be taken from the stuttering German market, where a mismanaged shift to auctions has resulted in a sudden drop in installations and far-reaching consequences. 

Ireland has added around 50MW so far in 2019, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly. 

Successful projects under the regime will be required to generate a community benefit fund, raising €2/MWh of produced electricity annually. 

The Irish government predicts this would raise €6m a year for communities close to wind projects. 

The scheme requires approval from the European Union, under state aid rules. 

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