Encouraging ‘prosumerism’

Letter to the Irish Examiner, published on August 28th, 2023.

Luckily, there is a solution to the planning permission hell described in the article ‘Council refuses planning for Midleton solar farm to ‘preserve character’ of green belt’, a problem which sadly faces so many new solar developments.

The solution is putting panels on roofs, and not on precious land. An example of how well this can work can be found in the Netherlands.

On a good day in that country, solar panels easily generate some 14 Gigawatts of electric power, which is more than three times the typical demand of the Irish grid. They have accomplished this in a country less than half the size of Ireland.

This is possible because in the Netherlands solar energy is primarily produced on the roofs of households and businesses: 80% of solar was placed on roofs in 2021. Only a minority of solar energy is generated in commercial large-scale installations on fields.

This impressive feat was made possible by allowing consumers to cross off excess electricity generation from their remaining power usage, thus giving households rewarding and predictable savings.

The State should, as much as possible, encourage consumers to place solar panels on their roofs; not only because this spares scenic agricultural land, but also because it has the additional benefit of taking initiative out of the hands of the industry, putting it into the hands of consumers instead.

Consumers thereby become electricity-conscious ‘prosumers’, who profit from their contribution to the energy transition, instead of it just being a sunk cost.

Ethan van Woerkom, Ballyheigue, Co Kerry.