IrBEA outlines bioenergy priorities ahead of the 2021 Budget
In the Republic of Ireland, Budget 2021 is expected to be a watershed budget in terms of driving towards 2030 and 2050 climate actions. Government support for the Irish bioenergy industry through dedicated support and development measures will greatly assist in meeting Irelands targets according to the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).
The Irish bioenergy sectors of biomass, biogas, biofuels, energy crops, and wood fuels are all part of the bioeconomy and offer considerable potential and opportunity to drive the economy, jobs, and growth agenda in rural areas.
The industry in Ireland is waiting for its full potential to be realized by the Government and the budget presents the Government with an opportunity to announce measures and supports which will help to mobilize our industry across the different sectors. There is significant potential for bioenergy to 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, CEO, Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).
Over the last few weeks, IrBEA as the voice of the Irish bioenergy industry and working towards a sustainable energy future, has lobbied in advance of the budget on the issues impacting its members in the bioenergy sector.
Call for support, policies, and pragmatic amendments
IrBEA is calling for a mixture of supports, policy announcements and practical issues to be addressed in the Budget and Finance Act which are impacting its industry and members.
Bioenergy is a thriving industry across Europe and one that Ireland needs to fully embrace. 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.
Bioenergy budget measures suggested by IrBEA include:
- Budget provision for the widespread rollout of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) in 2021 and rapid resolution of implementation issues with the scheme, issues that are severely impacting on bioenergy’s potential to contribute to national renewable heat and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
- Additional dedicated resources to be assigned to the Sustainable Energy Agency of Ireland (SEAI) to assist with the efficient administration and implementation of the SSRH.
- An increase in carbon tax by EUR 10 per tonne in Budget 2021, provided effective measures are also implemented to reduce fuel poverty, and, ideally combined with the regulation of wood fuel quality as outlined in IrBEA’s submission to DCCAE and EPA.
- Ringfencing of revenue generated from carbon tax increases to provide support for the development of bioenergy and a biogas/biomethane industry in Ireland on a phased and sustainable basis benefitting rural jobs and the circular economy.
- In line with Action 53 in the Climate Action Plan, make provision for a dedicated preference category under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (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 mobilisation of forest biomass.
- Immediate establishment of the Midlands Renewable Energy Hub, with provision for the widening of support for greater use of biomass at scale to decarbonise electricity at Edenderry Power transitioning and repurposing from peat to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2023.
- Introduction of a Biogas Support Scheme to mobilise an Irish biogas industry on a phased basis as per a joint policy paper developed in association with Cré.
- Provision 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 machineries such as mobile cranes and concrete pumping equipment. This is specially related to using rebated fuel, registration of overweigh vehicles, and tachograph usage.
- As per the Biofuel Obligation Scheme, the immediate increase of blending rates from the current E5 to E10 petrol blend and from B7 to B12 diesel blend.
- Introduction of a grant scheme to support the transition from fossil fuel appliances to eco-design compliant appliances at a residential level.
- That the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine make provision in their budget for the introduction of support for the energy crop sector.
- That, in line with calls from the forest industry, financial provision be made for increased staff and specialist resourcing in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address forestry licensing issues and backlog.
EU laggard despite naturally favourable preconditions
Despite the fact that Ireland has a natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to its mild climate and fertile land, out of 28 EU Member States, the country ranks 27th in terms of its use of renewable heat.
We have a unique opportunity to build a significant industry with multiple benefits. Ireland currently derives 4 percent of its energy from bioenergy, this needs to rise to 15 percent 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. While our focus is on using bioenergy in the transition away from fossil fuels, we acknowledge that building sustainable, economic and social recovery we 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, concluded Seán Finan.