How An Irish Energy Supplier Is Helping More Businesses Join The Solar Boom

David Slattery
14 August 2023

Energy supplier Pinergy has launched a €30M solar energy fund to give more businesses access to the benefits a photovoltaic system can provide.

The fund will take the form of power purchase agreements: Pinergy will install and maintain a PV system on a business’s premises, at no cost to the company, and will sell the energy generated to the business at a much lower cost than energy from the grid. A PPA is generally for 20-25 years — the warranty of a PV system.

“We have created this product because we want to bring solar to the businesses that are most set to benefit from it,” said Ronan Power, CEO of Pinergy’s solar business, Pinergy Solar Electric. “We want businesses to partner with us as the adoption of renewable energy grows. We have the infrastructure in place to deliver the service they need for the next 25 years, and probably much longer than that.”

A PPA brings several benefits, Power said. First, a business doesn’t commit any capital expenditure. The cost of installing and maintaining a PV system will be covered by Pinergy. This means that more companies can benefit, as there is no upfront investment. While a PPA can work for almost any business, it particularly suits businesses such as manufacturers that operate seven days a week.

Any business with roof space or land can install a PV system. Power said that while small and midsized enterprises are approaching Pinergy about the fund, the largest system the team is looking at equates to thousands of solar panels across parcels of land that could generate up to 7 megawatts.

“Aside from keeping the rain off, roofs rarely do much else,” he said. “A PPA gives businesses a means to generate a return on that space. We can have a PV system up and running in as little as 12 weeks.”

Pinergy establishes a PPA with both a landlord and a tenant, unless the premises is owner occupied. If a tenant leaves a premises, the landlord’s next tenant will need to sign the PPA, but this generally won’t be a problem, Power said: a guaranteed low-cost energy source is a persuasive argument.

This is the second key benefit of a PPA: energy price security. The energy generated by a PV system can amount to 20%-30% of a business’s total electricity use. It provides a guaranteed element of energy costs for the length of the agreement, no matter what happens in the energy market.

“All businesses like certainty on the balance sheet,” Power said. “A PV system does what it says on the tin, year-on-year. The sun will always shine, so we can provide quite accurate forecasts of energy supplied. A business can be at least partly insulated as the energy market fluctuates and we move away from fossil fuels.”

A third benefit is sustainability. Many businesses have an ESG strategy that includes sourcing renewable energy. Soon, solar will be mandated. In March 2023, the European Parliament voted for an earlier phasing in of new rules to make solar usage mandatory on public and nonresidential buildings.

“We’re passionate about empowering our customers to be part of a sustainable energy future,” Power said. “By offering a PPA, we’re helping all businesses to be more sustainable while giving them an element of energy independence.”

There is huge potential for the growth of Ireland’s solar market. While a PPA is not a new way to buy energy from a PV system, it is not yet common. Some large businesses have signed a PPA directly with a wind farm, but this hasn’t been accessible for smaller firms. Shannon Airport recently put out a tender for a PPA to design and install a system.

“Right now, about 1% of businesses in Ireland have a PV system,” Power said. “The solar industry isn’t in a race to the finish line — we’re getting into a marathon. The industry now needs to join the dots and make sure it keeps up with momentum.”

Power said that for the industry to grow effectively, PV suppliers need to move away from operating as an installation industry to being a services industry. Pinergy has created a call centre for domestic clients to access if they have issues, while a PPA will give businesses certainty that a system will be regularly cleaned and maintained.

When Pinergy’s €30M fund is fully taken up, the renewable energy generated equates to enough power for 7,000 homes. This is likely to be fairly soon. Pinergy is experiencing a high level of interest in the fund and is in a position to install rapidly. While global macroeconomics impacted supply of PV systems, Pinergy had built its capacity before launching the fund.

Though the sector overall will grow, there’s a risk the solar industry could be held back by a lack of skilled labour, Power said. The market for PV systems is growing year-on-year in Ireland, but there aren’t enough education opportunities to train people.

“The industry needs a skilled workforce and the government needs to get behind educating people about the sector in schools,” Power said. “This is a long-term employment opportunity — a single system needs to be maintained for a quarter of a century. As the need and demand for PV systems grows, there are benefits for everyone.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Pinergy and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.