Firstly, the scheme is not up and running yet, it has been passed by Government and the next steps are to develop the Terms & Conditions (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) are responsible for this) and seek EU State Aid approval, the scheme is due to start in 2018. This is a major hurdle that has been passed. The EU commission may deny the initial proposals (unlikely due to the budget caps) but if they do then they will be re-written taking into the account the EU’s objections to the proposal and submitted again this is done until it is successful.
The main points for note for the scheme that have been released so far are:
- The scheme will be run by SEAI who will be responsible for the operation of the scheme including evaluation and processing of applications and making payments to participants in the forms of operating-aid and investment-aid as appropriate.
- €7 million annual budget for 2018.
- There will be operational support (i.e. operating-aid) based on useable heat output in renewable heating systems in new installations or installations that currently use a fossil fuel heating system and convert to using the following technologies: biomass heating systems and anaerobic digestion heating systems (No support scheme for AD electricity production yet).
- There will be installation grants (investment-aid) to support investment in renewable heating systems that use the following technologies: air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, water source heat pumps. These grants are set to be 30% of the installation costs.
- The SSRH scheme will be a 15-year scheme and payments will be made to participants based on eligible heat use on the relevant tariff. Payments will be made to participants on a quarterly basis for a period of up to 15 years, provided they continue to satisfy eligibility criteria and ongoing obligations which will be monitored and verified by SEAI.
- Participants will be required to install approved meters and submit readings on a quarterly basis confirming the amount of renewable heat energy used for eligible purposes. Eligible purposes must be useful, energy managed and energy efficient. Eligible purposes will be defined in the Terms & Conditions and may include space and water heating in buildings and industrial processes.
- Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installations can be funded through this scheme if an electricity support scheme is released it will probably go into a new banding system and have reduced tariffs in both schemes as it will be benefiting from both.
- If projects are already availing of the REFIT scheme they are NOT eligible for this scheme.
- There will be budget caps on each project and a yearly cap on the entire scheme with reviews at least once a year which may mean a change in tariffs (projects already in the scheme will NOT be subject to these changes and will retain the tariff they signed up for).
- Designers and installers shall be competent to carry out works for both schemes.
- The 2018 Budget allocated €7 million to fund the initial phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat.
Quote from Denis Naughten (Minister for the department): “The lessons learned from schemes in other jurisdictions have been included in the design of this support scheme. In particular, there are eligibility criteria that projects must conform to over the period of support payments. These criteria will ensure that heat generated under the Scheme is applied to useful purposes only. In addition, there are a number of budgetary controls in order to control overall costs including project budget caps, a Scheme budget cap and periodic reviews to prevent windfall gains.”
It is fantastic to see the Minister is learning form the mistakes of other countries which will go a long way to helping Biomass become a sustainable feature in Irelands developing Sustainable Energy System.