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Mobilising indigenous biomass crucial to achieving Irish renewable energy targets

The mobilisation of Irish indigenous biomass will be one of many topics discussed at the upcoming Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) conference at the end of February in Croke Park, Dublin. Significant investment in forestry since 1990 will see residual pulpwood and brash material coming to the market over the next number of years.

Pictured viewing biomass at Bord na Móna’s Edenderry Power Station at the launch of the Bord na Móna sponsorship of the Irish Bioenergy Association, National Bioenergy conference is Tom Egan (left), Head of Bord na Móna Powergen Operations and Seán Finan, CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA). The conference takes place February 26, 2020, in Croke Park, Dublin (photo courtesy IrBEA).

According to the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), the Irish forestry estate of approximately 750 000 hectares (ha), representing circa 10 percent the area of the Republic of Ireland, is currently owned approximately 50 percent private and 50 percent public. The private forestry network is owned by approximately 22 000 landowners of which 83 percent are farmers. The average size of these forestry holdings is 8.8 ha.

Speaking in advance of the IrBEA conference sponsored by Bord na Móna and to be held February 26, 2020, in Croke Park, Dublin, Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA said that “mobilising Irish indigenous biomass and brash is crucial to achieving our Renewable Energy targets in both the electricity and heating sectors.”

Addressing the challenges of fragmented and mobilisation of our private forestry estate will need to be overcome. Bord na Móna, is playing a positive role by helping unlock the biomass opportunity in Ireland as an outlet for residual material which will help decarbonise Ireland’s electricity grid. The Edenderry power plant is looking to use 100 percent biomass as a feedstock by 2024 which will maximise locally sourced biomass. Currently, Bord na Móna is sourcing most of their biomass requirements from Irish suppliers and want to see these Irish volumes grow in the coming years. This growth will have the double benefit of developing biomass supply chains for industry and renewable heat and creating new jobs in rural communities, said Seán Finan.

The IrBEA conference titled “Bioenergy – Inspiring the Industry with Opportunity and Vision” will bring together professionals, industry representatives, researchers, farmers, foresters, technology providers and many important stakeholders across the bioenergy sectors of biomass, biogas, biofuels, energy crops and wood fuels.

Sustainably produced biomass will play a key role in Ireland’s transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a low carbon economy. Bord na Móna is actively encouraging the mobilisation of Ireland’s private forestry resources, matching local supply with local energy demand while providing a route to market for these first and second thinning’s and brash material, remarked Des O’Toole, Commercial Business Development Manager at Coillte and IrBEA President.

The conference provides a platform to discuss all aspects of the bioenergy industry, its role in the transition to a low carbon economy and the opportunity and role bioenergy has in addressing climate change.

Power using biomass produces a full ‘on-demand’ renewable energy and complements other renewable technologies. When the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine biomass can guarantee a supply of renewable energy to our electricity grid. The use of indigenous biomass will assist Ireland to decarbonisation our energy system but also drive the economic and growth agenda in rural Ireland, concluded Seán Finan.

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