‘Make use of Ireland’s natural advantage’ for bioenergy

The next government has been called on to make use of Ireland’s “considerable natural advantage” for growing bioenergy fuel crops to meet its 2030 emissions targets and get up to speed on renewable energy.

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) in recent weeks has circulated its Programme for Government proposals to political representatives across all political parties and independent groups.

The organisation continues to lobby for the Programme for Government to incorporate bioenergy measures and supports to assist economic recovery, emissions reduction targets and climate action.

Ireland has a considerable natural advantage when it comes to growing fuel crops such as wood fuel, biomass energy crops and feedstock for anaerobic digestion, the association asserts.

Ireland is in second-last place among EU member states in terms of its use of renewable heat. Ireland has had the best part of the last decade to meet renewable energy targets – and has failed, the organisation noted.

Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA, said: “We are calling on all political parties and independent groupings to embrace renewable energy as a robust means to rebuild the Irish economy after Covid-19.

“Our detailed document reflects the views of the association’s members across the island of Ireland.

“It lays out the opportunities through bioenergy for job creation, addressing the climate emergency, enhancing Ireland’s trade balance and encouraging rural economic activity while at the same time delivering cost savings for many energy users,” Finan added.

Noel Gavigan, technical executive of IrBEA, said: “The new government must now focus on the serious task of meeting 2030 emissions targets and must place this at the centre of its policy agenda moving forward.

Ireland currently derives 4% of its energy from bioenergy. This needs to rise to 15% by 2030 with further deployment beyond to meet Paris Agreement targets.

“The potential for economic recovery, reducing emissions and addressing climate change through quadrupling our bioenergy industry is a remarkable opportunity.

“All the sectors of bioenergy including biomass, biogas, biofuels, energy crops and wood fuels offer significant potential for growth through policy incentives and measures,” Gavigan added.

The bioenergy measures which the IrBEA has called for to be included in the Programme for Government include:
  • Greater financial resources to fully implement the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) to expand the timescale, size and scope of the support scheme via a ring-fenced budget allocation allied to aggressive promotion to ensure growth in renewable heat through biomass and biogas;
  • Advocating for mandatory renewable heating use to be in place by all public bodies by 2035;
  • Introduction of statutory regulation of the moisture content of wood fuels in accordance with the international wood fuel standard;
  • Calling on the Government to re-establish the energy crops support scheme considering market development through the SSRH. This scheme would assist in meeting local biomass demand, to promote diversification of agriculture and to provide alternative income for farmers;
  • Calling for the proposed biogas support scheme for medium to large-scale cooperative style biogas plants detailed in the IrBEA / Cré Biogas policy paper to be implemented on a phased basis;
  • Calling for the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) to ringfence funding for modern bioenergy-based technologies such as combined heat and power, providing efficiencies up to and above 90%. Importantly these technologies have the added advantages of providing dispatchable power with grid stability benefits, community involvement and rural development in line with existing climate change polices;
  • The transition to higher blending rates of E12 Biodiesel blend over a period. This means upping the percentage of biodiesel in diesel to 12% which comes at no extra cost to the consumer or the exchequer and requires no investment or change in infrastructure or vehicles;
  • The immediate transition to higher blending rates of E10 ethanol petrol blend. This means upping the percentage of ethanol in petrol to 10%;
  • Introduction of a fuel price support for biomethane as a fuel for heavy goods and industrial vehicles to maximise proven environmental benefits.

Finan said: “The world is in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Economic recovery is a task that will involve all of society and a new approach.

“Embracing the opportunities presented by the bioenergy sectors are immense. Dedicated supports and measures to the sector are required to make this opportunity a reality,” the CEO concluded.