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Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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‘We have to get rid of barriers to farmers putting solar panels on sheds’

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ICSA president, Edmond Phelan, has welcomed the announcement of a micro-generation support scheme, but stressed the need to allow farmers to put solar panels on sheds.

He said it must benefit cattle and sheep farmers if the government is “serious” about renewable energy.

Phelan believes there are worrying signs that the government is not ambitious enough to turn the potential into reality.

Micro-generation Support Scheme

“The government needs to walk the walk on renewable energy if we are serious about climate change and also if we want to help family farm businesses benefit.”

ICSA will be insisting that a micro-generation scheme must allow cattle and sheep farmers, in particular, to utilise significant roof space on sheds for solar power.

“Bizarrely, the consultation documents, although allowing for selling surplus power to the grid, seem to suggest that farmers making a return on capital invested is not desirable.”

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The document suggests that: Remuneration for exported electricity is a small additional benefit in the overall context rather than a revenue-generating opportunity.”

“This pre-determined outcome betrays a lamentable lack of ambition. Why shouldn’t farmers generate revenue if they undertake a substantial investment?”

“It suggests that the government is completely detached from the reality of business decisions if they expect farmers to invest but then put nonsensical limits to the possibility of getting a return.”

“The reality is that most farmers do not have sufficient electricity consumption to justify this investment unless they can sell surplus power to the grid at an economically sensible price over a prolonged period.”

“Why would the Government want to rule out all but the most-large scale of dairy, pigs and poultry operations who need a lot of electricity?”

“The plan to limit sale of surplus electricity to 30% of total electricity generated is bureaucratic nonsense, which will discriminate against cattle and sheep farmers, who may have a lot of roof space but low electricity consumption. This is not acceptable.”

Solar panels on sheds

ICSA believes that the micro-generation scheme will be a “complete flop” as the proposals stand.

“Already we know that uptake among residential customers has been very low because the economics of retrofit are marginal.”

“If this scheme is to be a success, we have got to get rid of barriers to farmers putting solar panels on sheds. The commitment to 70% renewable electricity by 2030 won’t be met if we tie ourselves up in knots before we begin.”

“It is also essential that the Government demonstrates to low-income cattle and sheep farmers that climate change mitigation can bring benefits to them and that it wants more cattle and sheep farms to be viable.”

“Otherwise, a clear signal is being sent by government that they do not want beef and sheep enterprises to endure.”

In terms of a commitment to allow farmers to put solar panels on their sheds, the farm group said it requires guaranteed index-linked prices for twenty years with a view to paying off the capital invested in five years.

“Anything less and the government is only paying lip service to renewable energy targets and its climate change mitigation strategy is just hot air.”

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