Two-year boost on REFIT 2 cut-off
Increase in eligibility period for support tariffs unveiled at IWEA conference
Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte has unveiled wide-ranging reforms to the Republic's support tariffs for wind energy in a move welcomed by industry, writes Jack Horgan-Jones.
Under the new rules, announced at the Irish Wind Energy Association's spring conference in Dublin, the eligibility period for the REFIT 2 support scheme will be extended by two years to 31 December 2017.
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Projects granted extensions to the REFIT 1 scheme, which officially closed in 2010, will now have a further nine months from the end date of their extension before they have to be energised. The same nine-month grace period will apply to REFIT 2.
Rabbitte said he will also relax the rules around the definition of a "fully commissioned and operational" wind farm, easing pressure on hard-pressed developers rushing to get up and spinning before the REFIT deadlines. He said that projects will now only have to have 75% of installed capacity by the end of the nine-month period, as opposed to 100% beforehand.
Rabbitte said: “Renewable energy generators need policy certainty if they are to have the confidence to invest. The changes I am announcing today will encourage investment between now and 2017. This is important as we are currently 630MW behind where the National Renewable Energy Action Plan has outlined we should be in 2012.
"Our 2020 target will not be achieved without an increase in wind energy build from an historic average of 180MW per year to at least 250MW per year. Clearly the timely development of a healthy pipeline of potential wind projects is essential if Ireland’s 2020 renewable electricity targets are to be achieved.”
Industry sources said the move, which represents a volte-face by the department, would allow the development of projects in a timely manner along with a less pressurised project finance environment.
Bord na Mona head of energy John Reilly said the news was "very welcome" and is a "very, very positive development for the industry". He said a lack of clarity on REFIT periods and definitions "have been one of the many barriers to the rollout of wind over the years".
Reilly said: "What is particularly welcome is that you may only have to have 75% of your project constructed by the end of 2017. That should give most projects that are in the pipeline a real opportunity of getting built out."
During his address, Rabbitte announced that a new renewable energy scheme is being designed to come into force later this decade, once Ireland’s energy market is more closely integrated with the rest of Europe.
The Energy Minister also underlined that EU law is clear that it falls to the Irish government to decide what projects designed to export renewable energy would benefit from the terms of an inter-governmental agreement.
He said: “The Directive specifies that it is for the government on whose territory the project is sited to identify a specific project to the Commission and to specify how much of the energy produced at that project is to be regarded as counting towards meeting the targets in the other country.”
Image: Rabbitte said he understood the concerns of developers (DECC)