Since 2005, Northern Ireland’s schools, businesses, councils and private householders have been installing photovoltaics and other electricity generating technologies with help from the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO).
Can I get the Feed in Tariff in Northern Ireland?
The UK’s Feed in Tariff (FIT) is a well publicised scheme to incentivise the adoption of renewable electricity production by householders and businesses. If you live or run a business in Northern Ireland, you might be wondering whether you can get involved in the scheme.
The short answer is that there is no Feed in Tariff in Northern Ireland at the present time, but you might be able to do even better.
The legislation under which the tariff was introduced was the Energy Act 2008, which applies to Great Britain but not to Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, energy policies are a devolved power, so the decisions about schemes, policies and incentives come from Stormont rather than Westminster.
The main mechanism of support for renewable energy generation in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO).
What is the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation?
The Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation is the main policy instrument for incentivising renewable electricity generation in Northern Ireland, and is led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). The policy places a requirement on all electricity suppliers to provide proof to OFGEM that a portion of their energy supply comes from renewable sources. They account for this by supplying a number of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to OFGEM each year.
When a business or householder starts generating their own energy, they are issued with ROCs based on the technology they are using and the amount of energy they produce. These ROCs are tradable and are of value to the energy suppliers, meaning they can be sold for additional income. Altogether this mechanism makes up the NIRO scheme, and to date has boosted renewable energy generation in NI from 4 per cent in 2005 to 14 per cent in 2012.
How the NIRO works
There are three ways a householder in Northern Ireland can benefit from the Northern Ireland Rrenewables Obligation scheme.
1. Cheaper energy for you: Using clean energy that is produced on site by photovoltaics or another method will give you energy to use yourself. This means less energy needs to be purchased from the grid.
2. Income: Under the NIRO scheme, you will be paid in ROCs for the amount of energy you produce. As an example, photovoltaics (up to 50kW) attract 4 ROCs for every unit of energy they produce. These are worth 16.96p at the present time, and is payable whether you use the energy in house or export it to the grid. This compares very favorably with FiT payments in England. At time of writing, the solar PV FiT rate for installations up to 4kW is 14.90 p/kWh.
3. More income: If your energy is supplied by Power NI, then you can also gain additional income from your installation via an export payment. A meter is installed in the property to measure how much energy is not used at home and therefore sent back to the grid, and at the current time each exported unit is worth 5.59p.
The future of renewable energy incentivisation in Northern Ireland
There are a few changes which residents of Northern Ireland should be aware of when investing in renewable energy. The first of this is that the NIRO scheme is planned for closure to new applications in 2017. This follows a period of consultation around the changes which were brought about by the Electricity Market Reform last year, and was announced by Energy Minister Arlene Foster in 2013.
However, alongside this there is a proposal to introduce a similar Feed in Tariff (FIT) with some Contracts for Difference (CfD) in 2016 / 17, which will take over from the NIRO as the main incentive mechanism for Northern Ireland. In addition to this, there is a proposal under consideration to extend the payment period for NIRO from 2033 to 2037, which will bring it in line with the Renewables Obligation and the Renewables Obligation Scotland.
Renewables Obligation Northern Ireland – current banding levels
|Solar PV||< 50kW||4 ROCs|
|50kW – 5MW||2 ROCs|
|Wind||< 250kW||4 ROCs|
|250kW – 5MW||1 ROC|
|Hydro||< 20kW||4 ROCs|
|20kW – 250kW||3 ROCs|
|250kW – 1MW||2 ROCs|
|1MW – 5MW||1 ROC|
|Biomass||< 50kW||2 ROCs|
|50kW – 5MW||1.5 ROCs|
|Anaerobic Digestion||< 50kW||4 ROCs|
|50kW – 500kW||4 ROCs|
|500kW – 5MW||3 ROCs|
NIRO tariff rates from Power NI (up to 50kW)
Power NI’s Generation Tariff currently offers an annual fixed price for ROCs and export for generators up to 50kW. Both prices are considered and approved by the Utility Regulator. The current tariff price applies from 1st October 2013 – 30 September 2014. Each ROC has a unit price of 4.24p/kWh (for generators up to 50kW).
|Solar PV||< 50kW||16.96|
|50kW – 5MW||N/A|
|250kW – 5MW||N/A|
|20kW – 250kW||12.72|
|250kW – 1MW||N/A|
|1MW – 5MW||N/A|
|50kW – 5MW||N/A|
|Anaerobic Digestion||< 50kW||16.96|
|50kW – 500kW||N/A|
|500kW – 5MW||N/A|
Payment for ROCs, Generators 50kW and above
If your system is 50kW or above, you have two options for receiving payment for your ROCs from Power NI:
- Power NI will give you a % of the buy-out and recycle fund each year or
- Power NI will auction your ROCs on your behalf.
Power NI has an export tariff for renewable energy generators up to 50kW. The current tariff runs from 1st October 2013 to 30th September 2014.
|1st October 2013 – 30th September 2014||Export Tariff|
Generators between 50kW-250kW are paid based on half hourly export metering data set against electricity market prices. Generators will receive a value for their exported electricity reflecting the prevailing underlying wholesale price of electricity. Generators over 250kWh negotiate bespoke contract with Power NI.