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No Changes to NI ROCs Until October

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No Changes to NI ROCs Until October

DETI: there will be no change to NI ROCs before October 2015

In June 2014, Northern Ireland’s Department for Enterprise, Trade & Investment (DETI) proposed cuts to the Northern Ireland Renewables Obligation (NIRO), dramatically reducing the amount of ROCs issued to solar PV systems up to 250kW.

The current level of ROCs is 4/mWH for systems up to 50kW and 2/mWh in the 50-250kW band. The review suggests a drop to 1.6 ROCs/mWh across the board; a massive 60% reduction in subsidies for small to medium sized PV systems.

The changes were due to take effect from 1st April 2015, but with severe opposition from Northern Ireland’s solar PV industry and over 330 responses to the consultation, the decision has been delayed. DETI have announced there will be no changes to existing NI ROC levels until at least 1st October 2015.

However, DETI are still to clarify whether they will still go ahead with such drastic cuts in October, and whether they will amend the level of ROCs from their original proposal.

Proposed Rates

  Current Proposed   FiT
  ROCs /kWh ROCs /kWh Reduction /kWh

0 > 50 kW

4

17.06*

1.6

6.83p*

60%

12.72p**

50 > 250 kW

2

8.53p

1.6

6.83p

20%

10.12p**

*plus 5.59p per kWh exported
**plus 4.77p per kWh generated

If the proposed changes take place, ROCs for solar PV will fall to 1.6/mWh across the board – a 60% decrease for systems up to 50kW and 20% in the 50-250kW band. This means that payments for systems in the lower band will fall from around 16.66p/kWh to just 6.66p/kWh.

Solar PV owners in Northern Ireland currently receive similar payments to the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, but after the proposed cuts, they will receive less than half than in mainland Britain, despite grid connection costs being up to three times more than in parts of England.

How Will This Affect the Industry?

Following routine review, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment concluded that the current level of ROCs overcompensates generators, and that the proposed cuts reflect the lowering capital costs of solar PV.

Even so, the 60% cut on small to medium sized PV systems will be extremely harmful to Northern Ireland’s burgeoning renewable energy market. Many home and business owners will no longer see solar PV as a viable investment, instead investing their money elsewhere.

Those within the industry are hoping the DETI will consider a much less dramatic change to the ROC scheme to avoid a market crash as seen in mainland Britain after the 70% reduction in the Feed-in Tariff in 2012.

While cash returns may be less generous and payback time may be longer, the benefits of independent energy generation still remain. According to polls, solar PV continues to be the most desirable green home improvement and with module prices expected to continue to fall, the factors that have caused the solar industry boom are still in play.


NIRO Small Scale Banding Review Consultation 2015 (PDF)

Figures taken on average at time of writing.
Cost of ROCs taken as average price on 22/12/14 according to www.e-roc.co.uk.

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