The prospect of rationing and blackouts has become plausible over the past week with speculation that Russia may cut gas supplies to Europe or in order to step up sanctions, European countries reach a common consensus to wean themselves off Russian gas.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, February was a record month for wind power in Ireland, with more than half of the country’s energy needs coming from wind power. One plan being explored by the government is apparently the possibility of imposing peak tariffs on electricity customers.

From a cost perspective, if electricity consumption can be spread over the entire 24-hour period of a day, the costs of generating that electricity become cheaper because gas-fired electricity generation is activated at hourly times. peak to meet demand, while excess electricity generated for requirements in witch hours can be wasted. Standardizing our electricity consumption will mean that more of our wind electricity is used as part of total generation.

As a nation, we’ve had two-tier electricity prices for years, the older among you remembering the catchy ‘night saver’ jingle encouraging electricity users to switch to a meter. electricity split at the time. However, technology has evolved. According to ESB Networks, over 750,000 smart meters have been installed, meaning infinitely variable pricing options could be introduced rather than the traditional daytime rate and nighttime rate as we know them.

Indeed, some Irish electricity suppliers have already installed a three-tier system. One such plan currently offers a daily rate of 25 cents per kw for the hours of 8am to 11pm, with a tariff of 13c on off-peak hours and another discounted rate of just 7c for the hours of 2am to 4am.

As a general rule, farmers can currently benefit from a standard flat electricity tariff or choose tariffs adapted to the time of use. Government consideration of mandatory time-of-use registration is likely to be limited initially to households, as there is a perceived element of choice as to when electricity is used in the home. It seems unlikely that mandatory sign-up for non-residential customers will happen in the short term, but electricity providers may of their own volition start pushing customers more strongly towards this option with sufficient discounts applied for off-site use. point.

From an agricultural perspective, large electricity users include dairy farmers, pig and poultry farms, and tillage farmers, where grain drying is done by electric dryers. Reducing consumption is in many ways not possible without reducing production or incurring the expense of upgrading equipment to more efficient versions. Adjusting the usage time to accommodate off-peak hours is possible for some uses, but not too practical.

Installing timers on water heaters and installing a timed ice maker operating at very low rates and used as part of a two-stage plate chiller can achieve water heating. water and milk cooling at the lowest possible rates – together water heating and milk cooling can account for up to 50% of electricity consumption on dairy farms. These installations will incur additional investment costs, but VAT can be reclaimed and these capital investments are tax deductible.

For an average sized dairy farm of 100 cows, using 30,000 units of electricity per year, the potential savings by diverting usage to extremely low off-peak rates, say 25% of usage, with the milking machine , with the water pump, scrapers and auxiliary milk cooling occurring at more user-friendly times, the potential saving on electricity costs could be €1,350 per year.

Reducing usage should also be considered. First, avoid wasteful, leaky faucets and air hoses that see water pumps and air compressors running unnecessarily.

Investing in photovoltaic solar panels and storage batteries or a wind turbine can also be an option. Solar PV can qualify for a 60% subsidy for all farmers for 2022. For a 6 kw solar PV system with battery storage system, the payback period can be less than five years at current prices. Subsidies can apply to systems up to 11 kw, but for single-phase users the maximum export to the grid is limited to 6 kw. A 6kW system will only generate about 20-25% of the electricity consumption of an average sized dairy farm. Planning exemptions are available for wind turbines and solar panels when the relevant criteria are met, however, in order to qualify for TAMS grants, an exemption certificate must be obtained before applying for the grant.

The general criteria under which planning exemptions are available are listed in accordance with the SEAI Conditional Planning Exemptions document, however, these exemptions are not applicable by themselves in certain cases, such as development in the case of a planning area. special approval, and it is recommended to obtain an exemption certificate before work begins to ensure that the development is not subsequently rejected.