The recent Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) consultation has left bioenergy stakeholders frustrated – with the value of renewable electricity from bioenergy “not recognised”, the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has said.

The association claims that the “additional value” from bioenergy in terms of continuous supply and grid stability is not recognised in the RESS system.

The IrBEA added that the RESS 2 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 last RESS auction”.

Commenting, IrBEA CEO Seán Finan said: “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,” he warned.

The CEO stressed that the market and investors need to be provided with some level of assurance around future support through RESS for cogeneration (CHP) bioenergy projects for them to develop, similar to the certainty afforded to wind and solar technologies.

Noting that bioenergy projects do not currently have the same certainty, he added:

“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.”

Noting that the department has indicated that there will be a separate RESS offshore wind auction in the short term, he asked:

“Why can’t there be a separate RESS bioenergy auction also?”

Governed by the latest version of the Renewable Energy Directive sustainability criteria, bioenergy “provides long-term employment and economic activity in rural areas”, he claimed.

Pointing to the ambitious 2030 renewable energy targets as a “significant challenge”, he said:

“A range of renewable generation technologies will be required to meet renewable electricity targets. This needs to including bioenergy-based cogeneration.”

Calling for future RESS auctions to support a wider range of renewable electricity sources, the CEO said: “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 always shine.

“The challenge of an 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 decarbonise 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,” Finan concluded.