Since July 2022, Irish homeowners have been eligible to sell their surplus solar electricity to the grid. Prices for exported electricity are negotiated between electricity suppliers and consumers. So it’s important to shop around for the highest value.
How Much Can You Make Selling Electricity to the Grid?
Your solar export payment depends on:
- Your supplier’s export unit rate
- How much you export
Below you can see payment per unit, depending on supplier:
|Rank||Supplier||Payment (per kWh)||Notes|
|1||Pinergy||€0.25||From 1st of January 2023. Reported by RTÉ|
|2 (joint)||Flogas||€0.24||Increase from €0.20 to €0.24 reported by RTÉ on 2022-09-23|
|2 (joint)||SSE Airtricity||€0.24||“payable twice yearly”|
Electricity export amounts vary massively. At one extreme, a house with 2 kW of solar panels, a power diverter, a battery, and high electricity usage could have as little as 200 units of electricity export per year. On the other extreme, a house with 9 kW of solar panels and low on-site electricity usage could have 7,000 units of electricity to export.
Example: 6kW of solar panels on an Irish roof can generate about 5,500 kWh of electricity per year. If half the electricity is used on-site, and your electricity supplier offers €0.20 per kWh, then you can:
- Save €605 by producing electricity for your own needs
- Earn €550 for your exported electricity
- Benefit €1155 per year in total
The table gives more examples. Remeber this is for export only – total savings will be higher:
Annual export payment earnings table:
|Supplier||1,200 kWh (small)||2,500 kWh (medium)||5,000 kWh (X-large)|
Should you switch suppliers to get the highest solar export payment?
All electricity customers should switch electricity suppliers regularly to keep getting the best electricity prices. This goes for customers with solar as much as anyone else. The only difference is that now you should consider both the price you pay for electricity and the price you get for selling electricity.
It’s definitely worth weighing solar export payments as a factor when choosing an electricity supplier. But you also need to consider the rate you pay for electricity that you consume. Weigh both of these factors when choosing an electricity contract.
It’s not currently possible to buy electricity from one supplier and get the feed-in tariff from another.
Can solar export payment rates change?
Yes – export payments can and probably will change in the future. In particular, rates will probably loosely track wholesale electricity prices. These rates have been high during early 2022. A resolution to the European gas squeeze would bring prices down. On the other hand, carbon pricing may keep upward pressure on wholesale electricity prices, and thereby solar export payments over the coming years.
No matter what the price is, customers generally do best by regularly changing electricity suppliers.
How do I sell solar electricity to the grid?
Selling surplus solar electricity to the grid is simple. All you need are solar panels and a suitable contract with an electricity supplier from the league table above, and a smart meter (usually). For details, read our article about solar export payments/feed-in tariffs in Ireland.
I’m thinking of getting solar panels. Should the export payments affect the system design?
Yes. You should design your solar energy system with the Smart Export Guarantee in mind to gain the greatest benefit from the scheme.
Firstly, get lots of panels! With the Smart Export Guarantee, you can rest assured that your surplus energy will bring you benefits. Extra panels will also future-proof your system for increased electricity demands like heat pumps and electric cars. Best of all, large solar panel systems give you the best bang for your buck. Therefore, most Irish households should be aiming for 6 kW of panels, ideally 9 kW.
If a large solar panel array is out of your budget for now, consider installing an extra-large inverter. An extra-large inverter gives you flexibility to simply “plug in” more solar panels at a later time. Give this option special consideration if you have lots of roof space.
Finally, the export payment means that batteries will not be so important going forward. This is because selling surplus power to the grid will be more convenient, simpler, and with a lower upfront cost than storing it. The exception is if you’re worried about blackouts. In that case, a blackout protection system (which requires a battery) is worth considering.
How You Will Be Paid
Solar Customers With Smart Meters
Smart meters can measure both the electricity you consume and the electricity you export to the grid. So they’re the ideal tool to make sure that you’re paid correctly for your surplus energy. That’s why the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) wants all households to get a smart meter within 4 months of installing solar. They propose that households would automatically be scheduled for smart meter installation after notifying ESB Networks of their solar panels. This is done automatically by your solar installer before installation (form NC6).
Requesting a Smart Meter
You can also request priority smart meter installation right now by following the steps below, according to your type of electricity meter:
Single-Tariff 24-Hour Meters
If you have single unit rate that you pay 24 hours, you can call ESB Networks on 01 698 5005 and ask to be prioritized for your smart meter installation.
Dual-Tariff Day/Night Meters
If you have day/night metering, you’ll need to contact your electricity supplier to request a smart meter. This is because traditional day/night tariffs will not be available with smart meters. Instead, you will be offered the more modern time-of-use tariffs. Therefore, you’ll need to agree on a time-of-use tariff plan with your electricity supplier before your smart meter goes in. Your electricity supplier will then request a smart meter on your behalf.
Solar Customers Without Smart Meters
The CRU is proposing that customers without smart meters be paid based on an estimate of their exported solar energy. However, the CRU are keen that estimates be only a short-term measure. Their goal is for all solar customers to get a smart meter within 4 months of going solar. If you refuse installation of a smart meter you will no longer be eligible for export payments.
Tax on Income from Exported Electricity
The first €200 per year of exported electricity will be tax-free. After that, income from solar will be taxed as general income. So the amount of tax you pay depends on how much you earn. For example, it could be around 30% for those on the standard rate of tax, or around 50% for those on the higher tax rate.
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Export payment for larger solar panel systems
Businesses, farms, and non-profits with larger solar panel systems (6kW+) have different rules for exporting electricity. On the plus side, they get a guaranteed rate of export payment for 15 years. However, solar panel systems in this category will not be eligible for the €2,400 grant. But they may still be eligible for other incentives.
Owners of these larger systems will get a guaranteed rate of €0.135 per unit of exported electricity, for systems installed during 2022 or 2023. The rate will fall by €0.01 each year from 2024. For example, systems installed in 2025 will get a rate of €0.125 per unit of electricity exported.
Export payments for these larger solar energy systems were scheduled to start from Q3 2022. However, as of September 2022, the CRU is still working out the details of the scheme, so that deadline is likely to slip into 2023.