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Value of renewable power gen from bioenergy not recognised in RESS – IrBEA

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has "articulated the frustration" of members in its response to the recent Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) consultation. The additional value of renewable electricity generation from bioenergy ahead of intermittent generation in terms of continuous supply and grid stability is not recognized in the RESS system IrBEA says.

In October 2015, Bord na Móna (BnM) announced the "biggest change in land use in modern Irish history" when it stated that after 2030 it will no longer harvest energy peat. Instead, the sizeable land bank will be converted to other sustainable business uses including wind farms and solar. BnM and ESB have already joint wind farm projects.

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has “articulated the frustration” of members in its response to the recent Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) consultation. The additional value of renewable electricity generation from bioenergy ahead of intermittent generation in terms of continuous supply and grid stability is not recognized in the RESS system IrBEA says.

The consultation on the second onshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS 2) auction design and implementation closed on August 20, 2021. The consultation document did not contain details of any specific category allocation for bioenergy projects including biomass and biogas similar to how solar got a preferential category in the previous RESS auction.

RESS auctions are intended to be technology-neutral but are biased towards technologies that provide a low MWh cost only. Bioenergy cannot compete on a cost-only basis with other intermittent electricity sources such as wind and solar. The current maximum offer price is also a limiting factor and precludes bioenergy generation. It seems that no value is currently placed on continuous generation, grid stability, and the additional environmental, financial, and social benefits that bioenergy generation could provide. This may prove detrimental, if not addressed, to the Irish power grid and economic growth, cautioned Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA.

A developer considering a wind or solar project has a high level of certainty that the RESS will be potential support for their project. This gives confidence and allows investment by the developer in project development costs. The market needs to be provided with some level of assurance around future support through RESS for cogeneration (CHP) bioenergy projects for them to develop.

Intermittent technologies such as wind and solar have certainty through the RESS process. They can plan for future auctions and invest in project development costs accordingly, with the assurance that there will be potential support available in the future through the auction system. Bioenergy projects do not have the same certainty. As a result, it’s difficult for the project pipeline to develop. The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) and Minister Ryan need to signal their future intentions immediately regarding specific support for bioenergy through the RESS auction system. The Department has indicated that there will be a separate RESS offshore wind auction in the short term. Why can’t there be a separate RESS bioenergy auction also? said Finan.

IrBEA points out that governed by the latest version of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) sustainability criteria, bioenergy provides long-term employment and economic activity in rural areas. With an increased ambition to 2030, meeting current renewable energy and emissions reduction targets presents a significant challenge.

A range of renewable generation technologies will be required to meet renewable electricity targets. This needs to include biomass-based cogeneration.

We urge DECC and the Minister to engage with the bioenergy industry and ensure that future RESS auctions support a wider range of renewable electricity sources. A broader array of benefits other than just cost need to be evaluated and valued. Ireland has great potential for variable sources such as wind and solar. Generation capacity can be increased considerably with these technologies. However, the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. The challenge of increasing demand for electricity through a forecasted growth of electrification will require all potential generation technologies to contribute. Significant planning will be required in terms of continuous generation, supply balancing, and storage of electricity. IrBEA fully supports the drive to decarbonize our electricity grid. All generation technologies must be considered and supported to ensure that a secure, stable, reliable and renewable grid is developed over the coming decade and beyond, concluded Seán Finan.

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