Micro-generation is the general term used to refer to the generation of electricity from renewable technologies including solar photovoltaic (PV), micro-wind, micro-hydro and micro-renewable combined heat and power (CHP).
A payment, or Clean Export Guarantee (CEG), is now available to all renewable generators that export their excess renewable electricity to the grid, regardless of what energy provider they have a supply contract with. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) published a decision on an interim enabling framework for the CEG
on 1 December 2021, with an enduring solution for the CEG expected by end of 2023.
A new micro-generation scheme was first identified under the Climate Action Plan 2021.
A public consultation on the design of the new micro-generation scheme was launched in January 2021. Following analysis of the public consultation submissions, the Microgeneration Support Scheme (MSS) was approved by the government on 21 December 2021. For more information see the related press release.
The phased introduction of supports under the MSS took place during 2022, with the commencement of the MSS domestic Solar PV grant on 16th February 2022, followed by the non-domestic Solar PV grant in September 2022. The non-domestic grant was significantly enhanced in July 2023 to support a wider range of businesses and non-domestic applicants.
The MSS final scheme design, which provides the background and context for the design of the grant schemes and assumptions regarding the uptake and costs for the MSS supports in line with CAP 21; was approved in December 2022 and is available below.
Domestic applicants can apply to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for a grant towards the cost of installing Solar PV equipment. In 2023, capital grants are available up to a maximum of €2,400
For domestic applicants, homes built pre-2021 are eligible
For domestic applicants, buildings do not have to meet a minimum BER (Building Energy Rating) standard
The initial non-domestic scheme enabled applicants such as businesses, farms, schools, and community buildings to apply for a grant for installations up to 6kW, at the same grant amounts as domestic customers, that is, up to a maximum of €2,400.
An extended funding range from €2,700 to €162,600 was introduced in July 2023 to support non-domestic installation sizes between 7 kWp and 1,000 kWp (1 MW) capacity, on a pilot basis to the end of 2023.
These expanded support measures for non-domestic applicants negate the need to develop and implement the Clean Export Premium (CEP) feed-in tariff; which was the measure originally envisaged for providing support for installations between 6.1 kW and 50kW. This will be kept under review in consultation with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
The SEAI will assess extending the grant supports to other eligible technologies, including micro-wind, micro-hydro and micro-renewable CHP.
Supports under the MSS will gradually reduce over time from 2024, to take account of reducing system costs
Applying for the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS)
The Clean Export Guarantee (CEG) tariff provides an opportunity for micro-and small-scale generators in Ireland to receive payment from their electricity supplier for all excess renewable electricity they export to the grid. This remuneration is intended to reflect the wholesale market value of the electricity.
This decision outlines the interim arrangements for the implementation of the CEG, including eligibility criteria and remuneration methodology. The CRU has decided that suppliers will set their individual CEG tariffs on a competitive market basis. The CRU decision also includes a number of provisions to ensure that the implementation of the CEG aligns with the National Smart Metering Programme.
The CEG became available upon the transposition of Article 21 of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) into Irish law on 15 February 2022. It is available to both new and existing micro- and small-scale generators who fulfil the eligibility criteria set out in the CRU decision. All electricity suppliers have a CEG tariff in place.
Since January 2022, a tax exemption applies to income up to €200 per year received by domestic micro-generators from their suppliers by way of the CEG. This means that for the vast majority of domestic renewables self-consumers, who will typically have an installation of below 6kW, there is no need to declare their income from the CEG.
CRU will consult on an enduring CEG framework in Q3 2023, with a decision expected by the end of the year. Further details are available at the CRU website.
Smart meters and smart infrastructure are essential to the delivery of the benefits of the energy transition, including for micro-generators. Smart meters can measure the profile of demand at the premises and thereby allow micro-generators to maximise their self-consumption. Smart meters can also measure the export of micro-generation installations to facilitate access to remuneration for residual electricity exported to the grid.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is coordinating the National Smart Metering Programme and is working with ESB Networks (ESBN) in delivering the electricity meter rollout on a phased basis.
Currently, ESBN are installing smart meters for customers with 24hr meters like MCC01 meters. They will give all customers notice when they are rolling out the meters in their respective regions.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) have set a 4 month window for ESBN to install a smart meter once a customer becomes eligible.
For MCC01 customers requesting a prioritised installation that are based in a current deployment planning area, ESBN will note their request for an early meter installation and will prioritise their exchange as soon as they are in their area. ESBN will write to the customer in advance of the meter exchange.
For MCC01 customers requesting a prioritised installation that are not based in a current deployment planning area, they will be informed that deployment plans for their area have not yet been finalised, but as soon as they are in their area, ESBN will prioritise their meter exchange. Again, ESBN will write to the customer in advance of the meter exchange.
For customers with MCC02 meters (dual-tariff / Day & Night) and micro-generation installed, who wish to access remuneration for residual electricity exported to the grid; they currently need to contact their electricity supplier and inform them that they have an MCC02 type meter and micro-generation installed, and that they would like a prioritised smart meter exchange.
However, MCC02 customers will be eligible for a like for like smart meter exchange from Q4 2023, when a new Smart Day/Night meter will be ready for deployment.
Any customer wishing to apply for prioritised installation of a Smart Meter can do so by contacting either ESB Networks
or their electricity supplier. When doing so, customers will need their 11-digit MPRN number to hand. This can be found on your electricity supply bill and always starts with 10.
Grid connections for Micro-generators
for projects up to 25 amperes (≈6kVA) at low voltage [230 volts] when the connection is single phase (usually domestic) and up to 16 amperes (≈11kVA) at low voltage [230/400 volt] when the connection is three-phase (usually farm or commercial settings) is provided for through ESB Network’s existing simple notification process, the "Inform and Fit" process.
On 17 December 2021, ESB Networks commenced a pilot of a new simplified process to enable customers to apply for Mini-Generation connections to the distribution network. This process is for the connection of inverter connected electrical energy, and all associated electrical equipment, in the range as follows:
25 amperes (6kVA) to 72 amperes (17kVA), when the connection is single-phase
16 amperes (11kVA) to 72 amperes (50kVA), when the connection is three-phase
The first phase of this pilot process has been completed. A second phase of the pilot has been underway since 1 July 2022, enabling at least a further 500 Mini-Generation applications to be processed. Learnings from the pilot phases will be taken into account in advance of the roll out of the enduring process.
Other Supports for Micro-generation
The SEAI has a Community Energy Grant Scheme
which is a national retrofit initiative with grant support for energy efficiency and renewable measures, including Solar PV installations. Through this scheme, support in achieving energy efficiency and reduced energy use and costs can be delivered for homeowners, communities, and private sector organisations.
In addition, farmers can claim a refund of VAT paid
on equipment purchased for the purposes of micro-generation of electricity (wind and solar) for use in a farm business.
Since 1 May 2023, the VAT rate on the supply and installation of solar panels for private dwellings has been reduced to zero. This is a permanent change, intended to reduce installation costs for households.
Improvements for farm enterprises are supported by the Department for Agriculture, Food and Marine, under the Pig and Poultry Investment Scheme, as well as the Young Farmer’s Capital Investment and Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage schemes, as part of the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS).
Domestic micro-wind turbines
The SEAI provides information on wind energy in Ireland that may be useful to micro-wind generators, more information is available on their website.
Small wind turbines are exempted developments in domestic, industrial, agricultural and commercial applications if they comply with certain terms & conditions: more information is available in SI 83 of 2007
and SI 235 of 2008.
The Climate Action Plan 2021 also committed to the development of a support scheme for small-scale non domestic generators (above 50kW, but smaller than those supported under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS)
. This scheme will enable larger businesses, farms and community projects to maximise their participation in the energy transition.
Government has now approved the high level design of the new scheme, to be called the Small-Scale Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. The final terms and conditions are now being developed and it is expected that the scheme will launch later in 2023.
Small-Scale Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (SRESS) - High-Level Design
The first phase of the SRESS involves grant supports for Renewables Self-Consumers for solar installations up to 1MW, for an interim period up to the end of 2025. These grant supports are now available under the amended Non-Domestic Solar PV Scheme, which now facilitates both micro- and small-scale generation applicants. Details of eligibility and how to apply can be found on the SEAI website.
In addition , on 30th of September, 2022 ESB Networks opened a pilot scheme for Small-Scale Generation.
The initial scope of the pilot is to run for six months and enable up to 100 connections in this range. Feedback and learnings will be taken throughout the duration of the pilot and will be used to develop and enhance our future generator connection process.
Transposition of the EU Clean Energy Package
Articles 21 and 22 of Directive (EU) 2018/2001
on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (the Renewable Energy Directive) outline the renewables self-consumer model for the deployment of micro-generation technologies. These articles also provide renewables self-consumers the right to receive remuneration for the excess renewable electricity that they export to the grid and provide the legal basis for the proposed Micro-generation Support Scheme. The transposition of these Articles of the Directive into Irish law was completed on 15 February 2022.
It is expected that forthcoming changes to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), as well as a recast version of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) will further identify the importance of microgeneration and associated smart energy technology, to enable greater consumer control over their energy consumption; as well as supporting energy efficiency and demand flexibility of buildings.
Planning for Solar installations
The Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 3) Regulations 2022 and the supporting Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022 came into effect on 5 October 2022. The regulations combine to provide updated provisions regarding planning exemptions for rooftop solar installations.
The exemptions are aimed at increasing Ireland’s generation of solar energy and combating climate change.
Houses, regardless of location, may now install unlimited solar panels on their rooftops without any requirement for planning permission.
Exemptions also apply to rooftops of industrial buildings, business premises, community and educational buildings, places of worship, health buildings, libraries, certain public utility sites and farms.
All exemptions are subject to certain conditions and limitations such as minimum distances from the edge of the roof and the general restrictions on exempted development in respect of protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas.
These regulations aim to bring Ireland into line with the EU’s Solar Rooftops Initiative by making permitting procedures for installing solar on rooftops shorter and simpler. It supports a target of installing up to 380MW (approximately 1 million solar panels) of microgeneration capacity as part of Ireland’s overall solar targets under the government’s Climate Action Plan 2021. This would generate over 300 GWh of renewable electricity per annum, with the potential to abate 1.4 million tonnes of CO2eq over the lifetime of the installations.