Perspectives on Micro-Generation: Public Participation in the Low-Carbon Transition in Ireland

Senni Maatta

Research output: Book/ReportOther report

Abstract

Micro-generation refers to small-scale electricity generation through for example, the use of rooftop solar PV. Public
participation has become an increasingly important issue for realising an effective and just low-carbon transition.
Material participation, such as micro-generation, is crucial for fostering this more active role of the public (e.g. Ryghaug
et al., 2018).
The Irish Micro-Generation Scheme (Government of Ireland, 2021c) aims to incentivise and support the uptake of microgeneration in Ireland, and to provide a route to market for citizens to generate electricity and receive a fair price for
doing so. The new scheme is prompted by European level developments and the requirements of the recast EU
renewable energy directive (RED II) (Directive (EU) 2018/2001, 2018). It represents the next step in facilitating more
active public participation in Ireland, following the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) (Government of
Ireland, 2019b).
This paper explores stakeholder views on micro-generation as expressed through the Irish Micro-Generation Scheme
consultation process. The data for the paper consists of 368 consultation submissions and the official documents related
to the consultation (Government of Ireland, 2021b, 2021c). Access to the consultation submissions was gained through
a Freedom of Information request (Freedom of Information Act 2014, 2014).
The paper investigates public participation in the low-carbon transition in Ireland. In particular, it is concerned with
more active participation of individuals in the low-carbon transition and how this is framed. It is informed by two key
concepts: prosumer and energy citizen (e.g. Devine-Wright, 2007; Lennon et al., 2020; Miller & Senadeera, 2017).
Prosumers are individuals actively participating in energy production. They can be seen as a subset of energy citizens
who are considered to have a broader role and responsibility in the low-carbon transition. This framing is in contrast to
that of the public as consumers, passive users of energy often perceived as delaying progress and the transition to low
carbon.
The paper analyses different perspectives on micro-generation, by focusing on two research questions:
• 1. What perspectives on prosumerism are expressed in the Irish Micro-Generation Scheme consultation
submissions?
• 2. What are the challenges and opportunities for Irish energy citizenship highlighted by the MicroGeneration Scheme consultation?
The paper is timely as it can inform debate before the final version of the scheme is published. The paper provides a
number of findings which can help the finalisation of the scheme, expected to be considered by Government before the
end of the year but also help shape future work on active public participation in Ireland. This future work includes for
example the National Dialogue on Climate Action, which is a forum for collaboration between citizens, communities,
youth, the Government, and relevant agencies on climate change (Government of Ireland, 2021a).
First, it finds, that the views expressed in the submissions are aligned with a strong prosumerist viewpoint and a desire
to actively participate in and benefit from the low-carbon energy transition. This highlights potential for significant
increase in micro-generation in Ireland.
Second, there are tensions between the prosumerist perspective which emerges in the submissions, and the approach
proposed in the consultation process. The core tension is between the commitment by government to the energy
efficiency first principle which means, that supports for micro-generation are linked to requirements around Building
Energy Rating (BER). The commitment to energy efficiency first principle in Ireland is in line with wider EU and Irish
policy but may work to hinder the uptake of micro-generation and decrease the accessibility of the scheme. A second
tension is linked to caps which the public feels are limiting but which are seen as a means of ensuring against over
remuneration and to support self-consumption.
National Economic & Social Council
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Third, the paper argues that, in terms of future consultation, the value of the consultative work would be increased if a
more comprehensive official response was provided to the submissions. In addition, increased attention to the
readability and clarity of consultation documents would improve the effectiveness and accessibility of consultation.
Finally, transparent assessment of the inclusivity and costs of the scheme for micro-generators would further underpin
the credibility of the consultation process.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherNational Economic and Social Council, Ireland
Number of pages35
VolumeReport number 23
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

This research paper is produced by an early stage researcher on placement with NESC as part of the MISTRAL innovation and training network. The author is solely responsible for the content and any views expressed therein, and welcomes any comment on this paper (s.maatta@qub.ac.uk). The MISTRAL-ITN has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (Grant Agreement No 813837).

Keywords

  • energy transition
  • micro-generation
  • Public participation

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