The infamous ‘cash for ash’ Northern Ireland RHI scandal which brought down the country’s government has heaped scrutiny on the Republic’s looming solar support schemes.

Speaking yesterday at the ongoing Solar Finance & Investment Europe event in London, John Mullins, chief executive at renewables firm Amarenco, said the scandal was causing officials to pay closer attention to the cost implications of any possible solar support scheme.

“The first thing that will be asked [of possible subsidies] is ‘are we getting value for money?’,” Mullins said.

The NI RHI scandal rocked the country’s coalition government last month and prompted then-deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’ resignation in protest at his counterpart Arlene Foster’s handling of the affair.

The scheme, which rewarded businesses and consumers for installing renewable heating schemes, was established in such a way that the subsidies paid for burning renewable fuels were higher than the actual cost of the feedstock. 

This resulted in the scheme being left on track to record a £490 million overspend, earning it the ‘cash for ash’ moniker.

The Irish Republic is currently considering how to best support the development of large-scale solar assets in the UK, with the country looking set to introduce a Contracts for Difference-styled auction process.

Speaking yesterday David Maguire, CEO at BNRG, revealed that the current timetable was for an announcement to be made within the next two to three months – four at the latest – meaning any confirmation was now more likely to be Q2 2017 than the previously suggested Q1 timeframe.

Given the required procedures and necessary state aid clearance from the European Commission’s Trade DG department, Maguire said that the very first large-scale projects in Ireland are likely to be completed by the end of 2018 “at the very best”.

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