Biogas feed-in tariff and SSRH opening key goals at bioenergy conference

The Government needs to immediately open the main Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) and progress with a feed-in tariff for biogas, according to speakers at the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) conference.

These two issues were the top priorities for delegates attending the event, held at Croke Park today (Wednesday, February 13).

The theme of the conference is ‘Mobilising Bioenergy with Policy and Action’, with a particular focus on technology, investment and the climate change agenda.

According to the IrBEA, the potential for the bioenergy sector in Ireland is huge and swift government action on bioenergy policy can accelerate economic growth and sustain thousands of jobs, especially in rural areas.

In addition, it can improve environmental quality, drastically cut CO2 emissions, assist in meeting our international renewable energy commitments and avoiding EU fines.

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

Speaking in his opening address, Sean Finan – CEO of IrBEA – stated: “Our immediate priority is the roll-out 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.

”As an agriculture country, we have an abundance of feedstock. There are many benefits for biogas across many government departments.

“These include reducing agricultural emissions, improving water quality, [the] economic [situation] and jobs in rural [areas] and decarbonisation of our gas network and transport fleet with green gas to name but a few.

For a biogas industry to be stimulated it will need a 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. 

Finan concluded: “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.”

Meanwhile, IrBEA president and Coillte’s biomass development manager Des O’Toole 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.”