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Budget 2022 an opportunity to unlock Irish bioenergy industry potential – IrBEA

The upcoming budget is an opportunity for the Irish Government to acknowledge the potential for domestic generated bioenergy and announce dedicated measures to develop and support the Irish bioenergy industry."The industry in Ireland is still waiting for its full potential to be realized by the Government. This budget presents the Government with an opportunity to announce measures that will support the mobilization of our industry," says Seán Finan, Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) CEO.

The upcoming budget is an opportunity for the Irish Government to acknowledge the potential for domestic generated bioenergy and to announce dedicated measures to develop and support the Irish bioenergy industry says IrBEA.

The bioenergy sectors of biomass, biogas, biofuels, biochar, energy crops and wood fuels are all part of the bioeconomy and offer considerable potential and opportunity to assist the decarbonisation agenda while driving economic growth and jobs in rural areas.

The industry in Ireland is still waiting for its full potential to be realized by the Government. This budget presents the Government with an opportunity to announce measures that will support the mobilization of our industry. Bioenergy can contribute to renewable heat, transport and electricity targets, provide opportunities to farmers through farm diversification and development of alternative enterprises, development of rural jobs and addressing the climate changes and emissions challenges faced by the country, said Seán Finan.

Over the last few weeks, IrBEA on behalf of members has lobbied in advance of the budget on the issues impacting its members in the bioenergy sector. IrBEA is calling for a mixture of supports, policy announcements and practical issues to be addressed in the Budget and Finance Act that are impacting the industry and its members.

Bioenergy is a thriving industry across Europe and one that Ireland needs to fully embrace. The EU Commission identifies that the Member State with the largest potential growth for biogas production is Ireland. Yet to date, we have had complete Government inaction in making this potential a reality. In challenging times, it is vital to exploit all proven opportunities to tackle climate change, renew and expand well-paid and secure employment and enable security of energy supply, Seán Finan said.

Despite the fact that Ireland has a natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to our mild climate and fertile land, Ireland ranks bottom of the EU table in terms of its generation and use of renewable heat.

We have a unique opportunity to build a significant industry with multiple benefits. Ireland currently derives less than 5 percent of its energy from bioenergy. This needs to rise significantly by 2030 with further deployment beyond to meet Paris Agreement targets, the potential for economic recovery through quadrupling our bioenergy industry is a remarkable opportunity, Seán Finan said.

Bioenergy budget measures suggested by IrBEA include:

  • Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH): Budget provision for the widespread rollout of the SSRH in 2022 and rapid resolution of implementation issues with the scheme which is severely impacting bioenergy’s potential to contribute to national renewable heat and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The SSRH needs to be broadened to larger heat users through the expansion of the funding bands. The Minister and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) need to ensure that dedicated resources are assigned to assist with the efficient administration and implementation of the SSRH.
  • Carbon Tax: Increase carbon tax by a minimum of EUR 10/tonne in Budget 2022, provided effective measures are implemented to protect vulnerable members of society potentially exposed to fuel poverty. Ringfencing of revenue generated from carbon tax increases to provide support for the development of bioenergy and a biogas industry in Ireland on a phased and sustainable basis.
  • Provision for bioenergy in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS): In line with Action 53 in the Climate Action Plan, make provision for a dedicated preference category under the RESS and other processes for the financing of biomass combined heat and power (CHP), biogas CHP and local heating projects, with particular reference to community involvement, and mobilization of forest biomass.  The need for renewable baseload power (hydro, bioenergy) has been clearly demonstrated in the past year when the grid operator had to issue warnings for grid “brownouts” due to the extensive concentration of variable generation on the grid (wind and solar). Future RESS supports need to consider the stability of the grid and the value of synchronous generators through a dedicated auction process for bioenergy similar to the way that offshore wind will have a dedicated auction.
  • Just Transition Fund: The Midlands Renewable Energy hub proposed under the Just Transition Programme needs to be established immediately to allow the repurposing away from peat to the efficient usage of biomass for heat and power provision and the establishment of supply chains, employment opportunities and rural development.
  • Decarbonising electricity: Widening the support for greater use of biomass at scale to decarbonise electricity at Edenderry Power transitioning to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2024.
  • Support for an Irish biogas industry: Introduction of a biogas support scheme to mobilise an Irish biogas industry on a phased basis as per the joint policy paper developed in association with Cré – Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland.
  • Provisions in the Finance Act – revenue treatment of biomass equipment: Provisions be made in the Finance Act for the revenue treatment of biomass chipping and related equipment to be the same as the treatment of other mobile machinery, such as mobile cranes and concrete pumping equipment. This is specially related to using rebated fuel, registration of overweight vehicles, and tachograph usage.
  • Biofuel Obligation Scheme (BOS): As per the BOS, biofuels are blended with petrol and diesel available at the forecourt. IrBEA calls for the immediate doubling of transportation blending rates in Ireland – from E5 to E10 petrol (10 percent ethanol), and from B7 to B12 diesel (12 percent biodiesel). IrBEA also calls for “greater market openness” for BOS certificates to allow biomethane and other fuels used to meet the requirements.
  • Grant Scheme for Eco-Design Heating Appliances: The National home retrofit scheme is ambitious. While successful for some households, the programme’s dedication to the energy efficiency first principle has lead it to be unsuitable, costly and prohibitively disruptive for a large proportion of the population. While IrBEA supports the energy efficiency first principle where it can be economically viable to pursue, decarbonisation is the priority in the short term. This means looking at fuel use and heating technologies. Therefore IrBEA calls for the introduction of a grant scheme to support the transition from fossil fuel appliances to eco-design compliant appliances at a residential level. This will support an energy transition to the use of cleaner, energy-efficient appliances which will contribute to GHG emissions savings, and rural employment.
  • Energy Crop Support scheme: The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine make provision in their budget for the introduction of support for the energy crop sector. IrBEA believes that this is an effective way of providing indigenous biomass for the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) installations, provides an alternative farm enterprise, potentially reduce livestock number, promoting the bioeconomy, rural development, and sustainable jobs.
  • Forestry Programme Implementation Resources: IrBEA supports calls by the forest industry for financial provision to be made for increased staff and specialist resourcing in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address forestry licensing issues and backlog.
  • Green Public Procurement: Enhance the Office of Green Public Procurement mandate and resourcing to ensure an annual increasing share of renewable heating in the Green Procurement Guidance for the Public Sector.
  • Financial Instruments and Low-Interest Loans: Introduction of financial instruments to assist renewable technologies such as: (i) expand the capital investment to build district heating (DH) networks via the Climate Action Fund; (ii) Introduce a low cost guaranteed loan facility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SCBI) or similar for the development of bioenergy renewable project similar to the Future Growth Loan Scheme introduced for the farming sector a few years ago.
  • Training  Resources for Renewable Energy Technologies: Allocate a dedicated budget to resources training and education providers to provide dedicated training programmes for new and to enhance and upskill existing workers to get involved in the renewable energy sector.

While our focus is on using bioenergy in the transition away from fossil fuels, we acknowledge that building a sustainable economic and social recovery should also embrace related renewable technologies as well achieving the development of sustainable materials and the protection of our ecosystems. Essentially we need to marshal a wide range of technologies and renewable fuels to decarbonise the energy sector across heat, transport and electricity, concluded Seán Finan.

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