Minister Ryan briefed on potential for small-scale biogas plants on farms

The potential for small-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plants on Irish farms was a key topic discussed by Minister Eamon Ryan in recent days.

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) met with the minister, whose portfolio includes that of the environment and climate, to outline priorities for 2021.

Paddy Phelan, president of IrBEA said that the role of bioenergy “is clear in reducing emissions in agriculture, electricity, heat and transport”.

“Bioenergy also supports rural development, rural enterprise and jobs and provides clean energy through local supply chains,” Phelan said.

Land use planning is crucial in the development of indigenous sustainable bioenergy resources from the existing forestry estate and opportunities for other measures such as agroforestry, energy crops and biogas to reduce emissions across the energy sectors.

The impact of delays in the forestry licensing system was highlighted during the meeting also. Timber, energy and the growth of the bioeconomy are noted as “key deliverables of a thriving forest sector”, according to IrBEA.

Renewable energy targets

The failure to achieve 2020 renewable energy targets was also acknowledged at the meeting.

Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA said that growth in bioenergy “needs to be recognised as one of the key climate actions to deliver sustainable clean energy for heat, transport and electricity that compliments jobs and enterprise through local value chains replacing imported fossil fuels”.

“Lack of supports historically for bioenergy [have] resulted in failed renewable energy target delivery in Ireland,” he said.

Bioenergy has many socioeconomic benefits locally and regionally which justify the need to invest in the required supports for biomass, biogas and biofuels, instead of buying renewable energy credits from other EU members states.

The other main items discussed at the meeting include the need for a full roll-out of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) in 2021; potential for a support scheme for biomethane injection (no indication by the minister whether he would support this); development of a heat plan for Ireland; and a plan for decarbonising transport.

IrBEA also briefed the minister on the work of the association through its Department of Agriculture-funded European Innovation Partnership project that focuses on the potential for small-scale farm-based AD plants on Irish farms.