BNM in ‘wonderland’ over indigenous biomass – Fitzmaurice

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed Bord na Mona are in ‘wonderland’ if they believe farmers will be able to grow biomass here.

Deputy Fitzmaurice was speaking at a sitting of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, yesterday November 13, where TDs and senators grilled the Bord na Mona representatives on their future plans for the company and its current employees.

The committee heard testimony from Tom Donnellan, chief executive officer; Charles Shier, strategic development manager; Anna-Marie Curry, company secretary; and John Reilly, head of development.

Fitzmaurice, a TD for Galway – Roscommon, also pressed the company delegation on what their plans were for the west of the country.

Realistically, with the figures you’re talking about, you’re in wonderland if you’re thinking farmers are going to go down the biomass route.

“I’ve spoken to farmers that are in the biomass scheme at the moment. The facts are if you’re down south in Ireland to rent land for the dairy sector at the moment, it’s €400/ha, in other parts it may be €200-€250/ha. The biomass is not returning. Are you calling on the Government to give a proper subsidy to that?” asked Fitzmaurice.

Answering, Tom Donnellan admitted that the situation was not “fine and dandy”.

He agreed with Fitzmaurice’s point that growing biomass in Ireland was going to be a challenge and required further support from the government – and added that, even though importing biomass “doesn’t make sense”, it is the only option for the time being.

We’re talking about 400 plus people loosing their jobs, and that’s the harsh reality of decarbonisation hitting our door.

Donnellan also agreed with Fitzmaurice that Bord na Mona’s plans for expanding into new projects “might or might not work”.

“First we need to see if we can get them commercially viable. We’re doing our pilots, we’re doing our trials, and if they work, we can decide where they go,” said the Bord na Mona CEO.