The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) welcomes the recent publication of the Irish Government's Climate Action Plan (CAP). While the plan is very ambitious it lacks the required detail in terms of responsible actors, specific timelines for each deliverable, and details of the necessary support and policy mechanisms for many of the actions to be achieved.
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The Climate Action Plan as published falls short in terms of the details required giving the scale of the climate action and emissions reduction challenge and Government targets. IrBEA, on behalf of our members, continues to strongly advocate for significant emphasis on bioenergy in delivering the ambitious Government emissions reduction targets. Given the urgency of the climate change challenge, there is a clear need to assign responsibility for each action in the plan and have specific timelines beside each. Many of the actions will require substantial developments in policy, planning, legal and regulatory frameworks, and momentous capacity building at all levels to deliver, said Seán Finan CEO at IrBEA.
Finan noted that without time focused, allocated responsibility for action delivery set out by Government, it is difficult for stakeholders and the various government departments to prepare and contribute to the delivery of each action in unison and collaboration with each other.
The previous Climate Action Plan was stronger as it had various targets with timelines and responsibilities, setting out a steady pathway towards decarbonization to 2030. While the Government emissions reduction ambition has increased since the publication of the previous plan, the recent Climate Action Plan publication offers no insight into how many of the previous plan actions have been successful, unsuccessful, or still in progress. As we move from the 2019 CAP to the 2021 CAP, with further iterations in the coming years, it would be prudent to expect regular assessments of the progress of each successive plan, Finan said.
Biogas / Biomethane: The ambition in terms of biomethane injection of 1.6TWh by 2030 is a replication of the ambition in the previous Climate Action Plan. This target should be increased significantly in recognition of the role and availability of Irish sustainable feedstock resources available. The 2019 joint IrBEA / Cré biogas policy paper “Mobilising an Irish Biogas industry with Policy and Actions” which clearly sets out an industry view on how this 1.6TWh target can be achieved. Anaerobic digestion (AD) technology, which is mainstream across Europe, can play a leading role in the decarbonization of heat, transport, and electricity while delivering emissions reduction and many other non-energy benefits to the agriculture sector.
Biofuel Blending rates: The introduction of increased biofuels blending rates such as 10 percent ethanol in petrol (E10), 12- to 20 percent biodiesel in Diesel (B12, B20), should take place immediately. Biofuel blending rate increases is a low-hanging fruit implementation action, which at little cost to the exchequer, could be introduced immediately.
Solid Biomass Resource & Wood fuels: The document acknowledges that the solid biomass resource capacity will double in the next decade. Wood fuels and solid biomass are singularly unique in being able to provide low-cost, continuous, high-temperature heat at small, medium, and large scales. While wood fuels are widely embraced across Europe, in Ireland, the potential is largely untapped.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) recognizes that sustainable wood fuels and solid biomass will form a critical part of the global decarbonization challenge, a view supported by our European counterparts. There is considerable distance between this recognition and the Climate Action Plan, which appears to have little acknowledgment of the role of wood fuels and solid biomass at all. There is a danger of failing to capitalize on the potential of this significant sustainable Irish resource which is currently available to meet the decarbonization challenge ahead, remarked Noel Gavigan, Technical Executive at IrBEA.
Renewable Electricity: The 80 percent renewable electricity target is welcomed, but the role of bioenergy derived renewable electricity through combined heat and power (CHP) will need to recognize by amendments to the future Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) scheme auction rules. Bioenergy-derived continuous electricity cannot compete on a cost-only basis with intermittent wind and solar generation. This needs to be acknowledged in the design of future RESS auctions with specific categorization for bioenergy CHP-derived renewable electricity.
The ambition for renewable electricity with the publication of a target needs to be replicated across renewable heat and renewable transport. We understand that the Climate Action Plan has yet to determine measures to remove a further 4 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Increasing the potential for bioenergy is an obvious choice, said Seán Finan.
Biochar: While the Climate Action Plan makes reference to the potential future deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), it is worth highlighting the role of existing Negative Emissions Technologies, as described by the IPCC, that are capable of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at scale. Alongside afforestation and reforestation, land-use changes that can incorporate biochar production and use are among the methods that the IPCC considers capable of CDR. The biochar market is in its infancy in Ireland but is set to grow and needs to be recognized for its potential by stakeholders at all levels.
We would call upon the Government to engage with industry stakeholders, to explore the potential a growing biochar sector can offer, not only in terms of the bioeconomy and circular economy, but also with its ability to provide carbon negative solutions for district and process heating. We must also look at its use in multiple environmental and agricultural applications as well as the tangible carbon sequestration benefits it can provide, said Stephen McCormack, Project Executive at IrBEA.