Bioenergy has a “considerable role to play” in the future decarbonisation of farming – with measures under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) vital to realising this.

This was a key point that the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) highlighted in its recent CAP consultation response.

Commenting, Seán Finan, CEO at IrBEA, said: “The bioenergy sector has a significant role to play in addressing some of the key challenges and opportunities that farmers, foresters and the broader agricultural industry face.”

Arguing that this should be recognised in the drafting of the Irish CAP Strategic Plan, Finan continued:

“Bioenergy has a considerable role to play in decarbonisation and the emissions reduction efforts of agriculture through development and mobilisation of energy crop, biomass and biogas industries.”

Providing examples of this, the CEO listed: “The sector can drive improvement in water quality through the use of biochar as a filter media. Biochar can also be used as a soil and slurry enhancer and animal feed additive.

“Biogas as a fuel can decarbonise heating and vehicles. Chemical fertiliser can be displaced with digestate from biogas production.

“Wood fuel production through the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance [WFQA] scheme is currently providing a market for thinning material as part of sustainable forest management,” he added.

The IrBEA argued that bioenergy can be developed through the CAP Strategic Plan with a number of measures, pointing to the EIP-AGRI groups, Knowledge Transfer Programme and On-Farm Capital Investment Scheme in particular.

Firstly with European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) Operational Groups, the association said this should be enhanced and developed, with a bigger budget.

IrBEA is the lead partner on a current EIP project called the “Small Biogas Demonstration Programme” which is investigating the deployment of small scale biogas facilities on farms.

“This form of research and development is important to bring together a range of interested parties including farmers, technical specialists and researchers to find innovative and practical solutions to common issues at farm level,” the association says.

Meanwhile, IrBEA also wants to see flexibility within the design of the proposed Knowledge Transfer Programme to accommodate bioenergy-based focused Knowledge Transfer groups.

Finally, regarding the On-farm Capital Investment Scheme, the organisation wants the proposed scheme broadened to potentially facilitate forester, farmers and small and medium enterprises (SME’S) who would like to develop infrastructure such as drying sheds, chipping equipment and weighing equipment to process and mobilise wood fuels from the private forestry estate, biomass crops and energy crops.

Finan said that “inclusion of provision for bioenergy in the CAP Strategic Plan measures would be a positive development for the sector”.

“It would recognise the significant role that the bioenergy sector has to play in the decarbonisation and emissions reduction efforts of farming and the broader agriculture industry.

“We look forward to engaging with the Minister and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials to discuss the role of bioenergy in delivering on the overall CAP Strategic Plan objectives,” Finan concluded.