The Green party have introduced a bill in the Seanad to lift planning permission restrictions on solar panels for schools, public buildings and farms. This will allow green electricity to be generated in much larger quantities and help in the shift to a renewable energy.
The implications of this for those businesses are clear but what are the likely results for other businesses.
Renewable energy in Ireland
When people think of renewable electricity generation in Ireland we tend to think of wind (which we have lots of) and for the future wave (lots of those too) or tidal. But the oft overlooked area is solar panels which are largely seen as a novelty rather than a viable method to reduce your business electricity costs. That’s because in Ireland, and particularly on the west coast, we don’t think of the sun shining much. However solar panels can still work at up to 20% even on overcast days and, as all business owners are acutely aware, 20% of something is a lot more than 100% of nothing.
More solar panels?
The bill introduced in the Seanad on 21 June 2021 amends Parts 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 2 of the Planning and Development Regulations, 2001, (SI. No. 600 of 2001). Schedule 2 of that regulation contains a list of developments that are exemption from needing planning permission (for example building a small conservatory or putting up a satellite dish are included). The new law if enacted would add “public buildings and schools, homes, industrial buildings, light industrial buildings, business premises and agricultural buildings” to that list though with certain caveats around changes being made to listed buildings etc. Additionally it removes the current restriction on the size of panels to 12 metres squared.
Potential impact on business electricity prices
Well at the moment electricity consumption tends to drop during the summer months but this plan particularly as it applies to schools will do something extremely interesting in that it will see electricity supply rise during the summer (school holidays and all that). So the mismatch between summer supply and demand will increase over time. While there’s never a good time to let your contract lapse and go on default rates, where possible it would suggest that over time business energy customers would be advised to shift their renewal date to summer months when electricity rates are typically cheaper* in order to take maximum advantage of this mismatch.
*Electricity prices are particular high at the moment due to on-going Brexit related issues despite the usual summer price dip.