The Government will consider expanding the scope of the Employment Investment Incentive (EII) scheme to provide improved support for startups and to enable projects to attract capital from a broader range of investors, according to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.He was queried this week – in a written question from Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion – if a company would be able to raise funds under the EII towards equity requirements for a solar farm.

Mr Donohoe pointed out that while there are no specific restrictions under the scheme for companies engaging in solar activities, a broad range of ventures are excluded. They include one-off trades, dealing in commodities, shares or other financial assets and the provision of professional services such as dentistry, architecture, accountancy and legal services.

The Minister said that leading up to last month’s Budget and since then, stakeholders have presented a number of proposals aimed at “broadening the scope and effectiveness of [the] EII scheme”.Those proposals have include amending qualifying company requirements to renewable energy community projects under the Government’s Renewable Energy Support Scheme to participate.

“Given the complexity of the many issues involved, including the need to ensure that State-aid principles continued to be observed, it was not possible for me to bring forward legislative proposals in the context of Finance Bill 2020,” said Mr Donohoe.But he pointed out that he indicated in his Budget speech that his department will assess how the scheme can be enhanced “in light of the current crisis”.

“Preparations are already under way in this regard and next month it is proposed to launch a consultation process where stakeholders will be invited to submit their views and suggestions to the Department,” he added.Those proposals will be encouraged to have a particular focus in issues such as increased support to startups, the potential to attract capital from a broader range of investors, and the potential to include certain energy-related projects with the scheme’s remit.

Irish Independent, 28 November 2020