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IrBEA meets Minister Ryan to set out the bioenergy priorities for 2021

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) met with Minister for Transport, Environment, Climate and Communication Networks, Eamon Ryan T.D. in recent days. The IrBEA representatives outlined the current work programme of the Association and priorities for 2021. At the meeting, Minister Ryan reaffirmed the Irish government's ambition to decarbonise the Irish Energy system by reducing emissions by 7 percent per annum surpassing EU targets.

Paddy Phelan (left), CEO of 3 County Energy Agency (3cea), and Maurice Ryan (right), Director at Green Belt Ltd, President, and Vice President respectively of the Irish Bioenergy Association recently met with the Minister for Transport, Environment, Climate and Communication Networks, Eamon Ryan T.D. to outline the current work programme of the Association and priorities for 2021 (photos courtesy IrBEA).

Commenting on the meeting Paddy Phelan, CEO of the Three Counties Energy Agency and President of IrBEA remarked that IrBEA members are identified as key to providing sustainable solutions to deliver Minister Ryan’s “ambitious” 7 percent target.

The role of bioenergy is clear in reducing emissions in agriculture, electricity, heat, and transport. Bioenergy also supports rural development, rural enterprise, and jobs and provides clean energy through local supply chains. Land use planning is crucial in the development of indigenous sustainable bioenergy resources from the existing forestry estate and opportunities for other measures such as agroforestry, energy crops, and biogas to reduce emissions across the energy sectors, said Paddy Phelan, President of IrBEA.

The impact of delays in the forestry licensing system was highlighted during the meeting. Timber, energy, and the growth of the bioeconomy are all key deliverables of a thriving forest sector.

The continuing delays in licensing from the Forest Service is severely impacting the forest sector. Forestry has huge potential and a very important role to play in supporting the agriculture industry in reducing our emissions. Forestry delivers timber, energy, and the bioeconomy. Forestry can promote biodiversity and land use improvement. These are mutually important topics and need to be part of future discussions, said Maurice Ryan, Vice President at IrBEA.

The failure to achieve 2020 renewable energy targets was acknowledged at the meeting. It was noted that investing the EUR 50 million paid by the Irish taxpayer for not achieving the Renewable Heat target since 2010 would have been better invested over the years in Renewable Heat supports which promoted sustainable local biomass supply chains for the supply of renewable fuel.

Growth in Bioenergy needs to be recognized as one of the key climate actions to deliver sustainable clean energy for heat, transport, and electricity that compliments jobs and enterprise through local value chains replacing imported fossil fuels. Lack of supports historically for bioenergy has resulted in failed renewable energy target delivery in Ireland. In IrBEA, we will work with Minister Ryan, his department, and SEAI to assist in the delivery of the challenging renewable energy targets for 2030 and always highlight the key role that bioenergy has in this regard. Bioenergy has many socio-economic benefits locally and regionally which justifies the need to invest in the required supports for biomass, biogas, and biofuels instead of buying the Renewable Energy credits from other EU member states, said Seán Finan CEO of IrBEA.

According to IrBEA, the main items discussed at the meeting included:

  • Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH): Need for the full roll-out of the SSRH in 2021 now that project inspections and payments have commenced by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) in late 2020;
  • Biomethane Support Scheme: The potential for a support scheme for biomethane injection was discussed with the Minister but no positive indication was given by the Minister whether there would be support or not in the future. The Minister cited concerns regarding biodiversity, potential increased use of chemical fertilizer, and further intensification of agriculture associated with a medium to large scale biomethane industry. IrBEA highlighted that its policy paper “Mobilising an Irish Biogas Industry with Policy and Action” developed jointly with the Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland (Cré) addresses Minister Ryan’s concerns;
  • Farm scale Biogas: IrBEA briefed the Minister on the work of the Association through the Department of Agriculture funded European Innovation Partnership project to demonstrate the potential for small scale farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) plants on Irish farms;
  • Dry Wood Fuels: The campaign by IrBEA for the introduction of regulation of the moisture content of firewood for sale to address air emissions issues was positively received by the Minister;
  • Heat Plan: The development of a Heat Plan for Ireland through Renewable Energy Ireland which IrBEA is a member of was highlighted. The role of bioenergy to decarbonize heat at all temperature ranges and across all sectors was emphasized. The example of the Danone Milk Powder Plant in Wexford was cited as a great example of local woodchip supply chains meeting climate targets and for its achievement in being certificated as the first carbon-neutral baby formula plant in the world using local wood fuel biomass.
  • Transport Plan: IrBEA outlined its proposal to develop a plan for decarbonization of the transport sector which will be ready for publication in Q2 2021;
    Forest Sector: The impact of delays in the forestry licensing system and impact was highlighted.

I was encouraged by the commitment from the Minister to the Climate Targets for 2030 and highlighting the role IrBEA members have in decarbonising the heat, electricity, and transport sector in Ireland through increased use of bioenergy including biomass, biogas, and biofuels. Lack of supports historically in heat and transport resulted in failed renewable heat target delivery in 2020. The revised EU Emissions targets of 55 percent reduction by 2030 is key and IrBEA will be collaborating with the Minister, his Department and the SEAI in the development of the revised National Climate Action Plan in 2021, concluded IrBEA President Paddy Phelan.

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