The government is “failing to embrace the potential of farms to generate renewable energy”, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), which believes that farmers are being excluded from the renewable energy strategy.
Speaking today (Monday, July 26), IFA president Tim Cullinan said that the announcement of a significant solar farm in Cork coming onto the grid is positive, but noted:
“Almost every farm has the potential to generate renewable energy for its own use and ultimately to generate power for the National Grid.
“However, the focus of the Government has been on large-scale projects,” he said.
“While this might be the quickest way to get more renewable energy onto the grid, it is a lost opportunity to include farmers at a local level. A workable microgeneration scheme could reduce input costs, provide a supplementary income source for 130,000 farmers, and create much needed rural employment.”
Calling for a clear government strategy to facilitate grid connections for farmers “and to properly support the installation of rooftop solar and other key infrastructure”, he said:
“The recently published draft microgeneration support scheme which was out for public consultation is inadequate and will not work for farmers.
“The government needs to harness the potential of on-farm generation instead of just paying it lip service,” he said.
“Farmers want to be central players in Ireland’s energy transition. It is happening in other countries – but this government is dragging its feet.
“For example, bioenergy is a thriving industry across Europe. Despite our natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to our mild climate and fertile land, Ireland is ranked 27th out of 28 member states regarding its use of renewable heat according to the SEAI.”
Bioenergy, particularly biogas, could reduce the environmental impact of the agricultural sector, the president stressed, adding:
“The environmental and climate benefits of biogas are significant.
“Together with a reduction in emissions and increased energy security, it allows for the exploitation of agriculture by-products.
“Furthermore, the by-product of anaerobic digestion – digestate – can be used as an organic fertiliser.
“It is vital that farmers and communities are supported and that barriers are removed for them to assist in Ireland’s future energy generation,” Cullinan concluded.