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Ireland's Bioenergy Day – more can and needs to be done

Bioenergy is Europe's leading renewable energy source. According to Eurostat data and calculations made by the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM), bioenergy will be able to supply 11 percent of the final energy consumption in 2017. An additional 7 percent comes from the other renewables, while the rest (82 percent) still comes from fossil fuels. Within this context, for 66 days the EU can run on renewable energies, 41 days of which are supplied by bioenergy—from November 21 to year end.

For Ireland, its Bioenergy Day is December 18, from which its energy demand could be met exclusively with biomass until the end of the year. According to the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), public support for renewables is at a reasonable high across the country not least with the recent announcement of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) going through the final consultation phase with Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE).

Bord na Móna’s Edenderry Power Station co-fires woodchips with peat.

However, IrBEA notes that most of the general public find it difficult “to weigh the contribution of bioenergy” in the energy transition. In order to grasp the importance of this often-neglected source of renewable energy, IrBEA has joined the Bioenergy Day campaign.

Considering that Bioenergy Day falls on December 18, just 13 days on bioenergy, Ireland needs to speed up its deployment of bioenergy throughout the country by a full implementation within the national energy strategy, in order to demonstrate a commitment matching that of the European Union. Looking to the future, more needs to be done to bolster bioenergy in Ireland, which has considerable potential to help drive the energy transition. IrBEA is leading this energy transition through the government and at European Commission level to contribute to policy development and regulatory details to develop sustainable bioenergy markets,  said Dr Ger Devlin, CEO, IrBEA.

As far as Ireland is concerned, moving beyond 2020 and EU targets, 2030 commitments have been already made under the revised EU RES Directive.

This is useful to support the development of national legislation, but we should not need to be continually nudged along by EU targets and the threat of sanctions. This is not the best approach to policy-making. In a post-Brexit world – there is a need for a national vision, embraced by our citizens and our public representatives. Things should be done because of the threats posed by climate change, rather than undertaking them because we signed up to an EU target, Dr Devlin said.

According to Minister Naughten, the new Renewable Heat scheme will “kick-start” the Irish biomass and biogas sectors such as wood pellet production from sawmill residues.

According to IrBEA, Ireland’s bioenergy sector should aspire to move the date to October by 2030, leveraging on an untapped, sustainable stock of biomass materials. Being currently produced from a great diversity of raw materials such as wood pellets and chips, straw, vegetable oil, manure, agro-industrial and organic waste, bioenergy has plenty of ways to reach that target – including unconventional materials and innovative technologies.

The recent announcement of the Support Scheme for Renewable heat (SSRH) is a very welcome development for the bioenergy sector in Ireland, one that has been stagnant for almost 5 years since 2013 whereby many Irish companies have subsequently gone out of business and perhaps why we can only rely on bioenergy for 13 days. There will be new opportunities now to stimulate growth for those businesses in the biomass supply side and indeed the biomass technology provider of which we have many as members of the Irish Bioenergy Association, said Dr Devlin.

About European Bioenergy Day

The European Bioenergy Day campaign is powered by the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM) and relayed across Europe by both national and international partners supporting the belief that bioenergy is more than a renewable energy source, but a reliable path that will lead Europe to achieve its renewable energy transition in the shortest span of time.

The campaign will last 66 days, starting from November 21 through the end of the year. This is a symbolic date on which the European Bioenergy Day was celebrated by organizing the European Bioenergy Future Conference, that was held in Brussels, Belgium on that date.

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