The capacity for agriculture to be a net contributor to carbon sequestration through bioenergy is immense, according to the newly-elected president of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).

A new president and vice-president of the IrBEA were elected by the management executive committee of the organisation last week.

Paddy Phelan, CEO of 3 County Energy Agency (3cea), was elected the new president and Maurice Ryan, director of business development at Green Belt, was elected the new vice-president.

Accepting the new role on Friday, May 29, new IrBEA president Paddy Phelan said:

The Irish bioenergy opportunity is immense. This opportunity has yet to be recognised at a political or policy level with adequate action and support measures which are necessary for the widespread deployment of bioenergy.

The president highlighted that sustainably produced bioenergy “will play a key role” in Ireland’s transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to a low-carbon economy.

He noted that the bioenergy sectors cover biomass, biogas, biofuels, energy crops and wood fuels; and are a key part of the overall bioeconomy, adding that they “have a significant part to play in its growth and development”.

“As well as contributing towards Ireland’s renewable energy targets, the sector can be the catalyst to drive jobs and economic growth in rural Ireland, while assisting to address the climate change and emissions reduction challenges we face as a country and a people”.

Rural potential

Phelan continued: “In IrBEA, we continue to lobby and advocate for supports to ensure that bioenergy contributes as part of a mix of renewable energy technologies.

Our objective should be to provide 100% of our energy demand by 2050 from renewable sources.

“Promoting local energy supply is very important. Rural Ireland can provide energy to nearby urban centres which need renewable and dispatchable bioenergy to support industry and particularly the agri-food industry.”

Pointing out that this “is all linked back” to the broader rural agri sector, he said:

“The capacity for agricultural diversification and for agriculture to be a net contributor to carbon sequestration through bioenergy production is immense,” he stressed.

“Bioenergy is a mature industry across Europe and alongside other renewable energy technologies makes up the majority of energy production in many regions.

This means that the region retains the value of that energy. When consumers buy that energy they are buying local.

The IrBEA acknowledged the work of outgoing president Des O’Toole who has concluded his three-year term, and wished him the best of luck in his career.