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Swift government action on policy needed to mobilise bioenergy – IrBEA conference delegates told

The need for the Irish government to immediately open the main support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) and to progress with a feed-in tariff (FIT) for biogas were the top priorities for delegates attending today's Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) conference held at Croke Park, Dublin.

Swift government action on policy is needed to mobilise bioenergy in Ireland – Des O’Toole IrBEA President and Business Development Manager, Coillte; Hildegarde Naughton TD, Chair of the joint Oireachtas Committee on Communication, Climate Action and Environment and Sean Finan, CEO, IrBEA (photo courtesy IrBEA).

The theme of the conference sponsored by CPL Industries and DWF is ‘Mobilising Bioenergy with Policy and Action’. The conference brings together delegates from across the main bioenergy sectors of biomass, biogas, biofuels and energy crops who gather to discuss the actions needed to mobilise the bioenergy industry with a particular focus on technology, investment, and the climate change agenda as the country transitions to more renewables and sustainable energy sources.

The potential for the bioenergy sector in Ireland is huge and swift government action on bioenergy policy can accelerate economic growth, sustain thousands of jobs especially in rural areas, improve environmental quality, drastically cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, assist in meeting our international renewable energy commitments and avoiding EU fines.

Our immediate priority is the rollout of the full SSRH scheme. The industry has had many promised and expected launch dates of SSRH which have come and gone. The industry eagerly awaits the launch of this scheme. We call on Minister Bruton to clarify today the timelines for the scheme launch. The industry demands certainty on the scheme timelines as they are currently organising staffing and work plans for the remainder of the year stated Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA in his opening address.

Opening the conference, Chair of the joint Oireachtas Committee on Communication, Climate Action and Environment Hildegarde Naughton TD updated all attendees on the work of her committee and the role bioenergy can play in addressing the climate change challenges facing Ireland.

In his presentation, Des O’Toole, Biomass Development Manager, Coillte, and President of IrBEA, highlighted the potential for forestry and biomass as key elements of the Irish bioenergy sector.

The bioenergy sector is a key part of the overall forestry ecosystem and has an important part to play in its growth. As well as contributing towards Ireland’s ambitious renewable energy targets and Ireland’s transition from a fossil-fuel-based economy to a low carbon economy, the expected growth in demand for biomass will be a key outlet for the increased supply of fibre projected over the next 10 years’, said Des O’Toole.

Development potential for “meaningful” Irish biogas industry

Notwithstanding efforts by Gas Networks Ireland, biogas is also seen by IrBEA as a sleeping giant.

Clear and obvious economic benefits of the local energy supply chain and it’s natural position as a low carbon energy supply, which will future proof us within the Renewable Energy Directive II requirements of less than 60g of CO2 per unit of energy produced by 2026 on the island Ireland, said Paddy Phelan Vice President of IrBEA.

Sean Finan remarked that as an agriculture country, Ireland has an abundance of feedstock.

There are many benefits for biogas across many government departments. These include reducing agricultural emissions, improving water quality, economic and jobs in rural and decarbonisation of our gas network and transport fleet with green gas to name but a few. However, for a biogas industry to be stimulated it will need government support in terms of a feed-in tariff. A high percentage of a tariff provided would go directly back to farmers in rural Ireland for the purchase of feedstock by biogas operators. This support needs to be assessed by looking at the multi-benefits of biogas from a climate, emissions reduction, jobs perspective across a number of government departments rather than looking at this as simply a financial cost to the exchequer, ended Seán Finan.

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