Energy

Microgeneration and feed-in tariffs explained

Whether you’re considering heat pump or solar panel installation, here’s all you need to know about microgeneration in Ireland and how to choose the best feed-in tariff to reduce your energy bill.

What is microgeneration?

It’s the small-scale generation of electricity from renewable sources by homes, businesses or farms.

The energy produced can be:

  • used to power your home or business
  • sold back to the grid via an energy supplier
  • stored in a battery for later use

There are several types of microgenerators which harness renewable power sources like sun, wind and water. The most common residential microgenerator is a solar PV system, which yields the most usable electricity.

Here’s the main options:

  • Solar PV system Solar panels and an inverter convert sunlight into electricity. It’s the most affordable option.
  • Thermal system Heat pumps draw energy from the ground or air and transform it into heat and hot water.
  • Micro wind system Small turbines located in exposed areas capture wind energy via rotating blades to produce electricity.
  • Micro hydro system Water turbines, pumps, or waterwheels harness the power of flowing water to generate electricity.
  • Micro combined heat and power (CHP) Natural gas is used to produce heat, the by-product of which generates electricity.

The Microgeneration Support Scheme

The Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS) is a government incentive that pays homeowners and businesses when they export spare energy back to the national grid.

The Irish government introduced the Clean Export Guarantee (CEG) in February 2022, guaranteeing payment for any surplus energy exported to the grid. Before the CEG was introduced, households with solar panels returned any excess electricity to the grid for free.

The buy back rates offered by energy suppliers are called feed-in tariffs.

Who’s eligible for the microgeneration scheme?

To be eligible for feed-in tariffs in Ireland, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • have a solar PV system or other renewable energy generators installed on your property
  • register with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU)
  • have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) with an energy rating of A to D
  • be registered with your energy supplier and agree to their T&Cs
  • have a smart meter installed
  • your installation must have a capacity of less than 6kW

Do you pay tax on microgeneration payments?

Yes, however, as a small-scale microgenerator, you’ll be eligible for a tax exemption of €400 per year on any income made.

The tax exemption rate will be in place until 31 December 2025.

How do feed-in tariffs work?

You’ll need to have a renewable microgenerator installed to produce electricity.

Solar panels are the most popular micro-generators and are more likely to provide the owner with excess energy. However, all renewable sources count if you can produce enough energy to export back to the grid.

The Clean Export Guarantee (CEG) allows eligible customers with microgeneration systems to sell surplus electricity back to the grid. Your electricity supplier, who sets the tariff rate, provides the payment.

ESB Networks need to be notified so that they can start recording the electricity you generate and export. Your installer completes the paperwork; however, if you need to make the application retrospectively, you must obtain an NC6 form.

Feed-in Tariffs Ireland

How much can you earn?

The amount you’ll ultimately get paid depends on the size of your solar PV system and how much surplus energy you export.

A typical residential installation will export between 10% and 40% of microgenerated energy. An average household will receive between €100 and €300 in annual energy credits.

The estimated returns for a typical three-bedroom home, according to Purevolt.ie, is 14.8%, which means you could reduce your payback period for solar panel installation by around nine months.

What feed-in tariff rates are available in Ireland?

Seven energy suppliers are part of the Microgeneration Support Scheme (MSS). You’ll need to buy your energy from the supplier you export to. If your current supplier doesn’t offer a feed-in tariff, you’ll need to switch to one that does.

These energy suppliers offer feed-in tariffs in Ireland:

Supplier Plan Rate per kWh* Payment method  
Bord Gáis Microgen Export Plan 18.5c Twice yearly credit  
Electric Ireland - 21.0c Credit as per billing cycle  
Energia - 24.0c Credit as per billing cycle  
Flogas Export tariff 20.0c Bi-monthly credit  
Pinergy Pinergy feed-in tariff 25.0c Monthly credit  
SSE Airtricity Microgen tariff 24.0c Twice yearly credit  
Yuno - 15.89c Twice yearly credit  
  • Rates correct as of December 2023. Suppliers reserve the right to vary rates.

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Do you need a smart meter to get a feed-in tariff?

Yes, CRU guidelines stipulate that a smart meter is required to qualify for the Microgeneration Support Scheme. Your smart meter measures the export of residual energy and enables your supplier to work out your payment.

If you decline a smart meter, you won’t qualify for a feed-in tariff; however, if you’re not eligible for smart meter installation, you’ll be remunerated based on the ‘deemed export quantity’ calculation.

ESB Networks are replacing standard 24-hour electricity and day/night meters with smart meters throughout Ireland.

What is the deemed export quantity?

Customers who are not eligible for a smart meter under ESBN’s National Smart Metering Programme will have their credit calculated under the deemed export arrangement, which is an estimation of the electricity they are deemed to export.

The following formula determines the Deemed Export Quantity:

Deemed Export Quantity= MEC x Capacity Factor x Export Factor x Provision Interval

  • MEC – This will come from the NC6 form wh, which the customer is required to submit to ESBN
  • Capacity Factor – based on a calculation from the CRU and is set at 9.7%
  • Export Factor – based on a calculation from the CRU and is set at 35%
  • Provisional interval – This is a calculation used for solar installations that takes account of how microgeneration works in practice during the day and from season to season.

Feed-in tariffs versus battery storage

The cost-effectiveness of battery storage versus feed-in tariff depends on several factors, such as:

  • size of the solar panel system
  • amount of electricity generated
  • feed-in tariff rate.

Before the Clean Export Guarantee was introduced in 2022, homes fitted with solar panels exported surplus electricity to the national grid for free. Therefore, investing in a storage battery to save up power for a later date made sense.

However, solar storage batteries are expensive, adding up to €2,500 to the price of an installation. Now that you can get paid for your spare energy, the need to invest in a storage battery has reduced.

Will a storage battery reduce your feed-in payments?

Installing a battery could reduce the amount of electricity you sell back to the grid.

While installing a battery with your solar panel system may affect your feed-in tariff payments, storage batteries can charge at night when energy is cheaper. This could reduce the need to purchase expensive, peak-rate electricity.

If you’re retrofitting a solar PV battery system, you won’t necessarily lose your feed-in tariff payments, but you will need to bear it in mind when choosing what kind of system to buy. A DC-coupled battery storage system is the way to get the most out of exporting.

With electricity prices so high at the moment, charging your battery with cheap, night-rate electricity for later use could mean larger savings vs selling surplus energy back to the grid. But consider the cost of the battery, as well as your electricity consumption.

Are feed-in tariffs worth it?

Your household energy demands and the size of your solar PV system will dictate whether signing up for a feed-in tariff is worth it. The feed-in tariff scheme in Ireland has many advantages, but there may also be drawbacks to consider.

Here are some pros and cons of feed-in tariffs in Ireland:

Pros

  • You can earn a steady income and reduce payback time by selling your surplus energy
  • You can lower bills and save money by buying less electricity from your supplier
  • You’ll lower carbon emissions and reduce your carbon footprint by using clean energy
  • You can monitor and control your energy usage with insights from your smart meter and app

Cons

  • The cost of installing solar panels can be high and unattainable for many households
  • You’ll have to purchase and sell your energy to the same supplier (or switch to one that offers feed-in tariffs)
  • Export tariffs are subject to changes in government policy and supplier rate fluctuations
  • Battery storage and time-of-use tariffs could be a better option for some households

Each energy supplier sets their own feed-in tariff rates, which change frequently. Take time to research and compare different schemes and rates before making a decision.

Feed-in tariffs FAQs

Can you get a government grant for solar panels?

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) offers two types of grants for solar panel installation.

  • Solar PV Grant: A grant of up to €2,400 towards installing a solar PV system.
  • Solar Water Heating Grant: A grant worth €1,200 for installing a solar thermal system.

In both cases, all homeowners and private landlords whose homes were built and occupied before 31 December 2021 are eligible to apply. Get further eligibility and application details from SEAI.

Please read our guide about solar panel installation in Ireland to learn more.

How can I see how much electricity I am exporting?

If you have a smart meter installed, you can read your export data on the meter.

To get the reading, press the left blue button on your smart meter seven times until you see [A-] in the top right-hand side of the screen. This will display the total kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity you’ve exported.

You can also view your microgeneration exports and credits via your online account. Visit your supplier for specific download instructions.

What happens if I switch to another supplier?

If you switch to another registered supplier, your supplier will credit any export to your account up to the effective date of your switch.

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