It is expected that approximately half of the 16% renewable energy target will be met by energy from biomass, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney.

Answering questions from TD Michael Creed on renewal energy targets, he said that the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a binding target of having 16% of its final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 and include biomass.

Ireland, he said, is committed to meeting this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy.

“It is expected that approximately half of the 16% target will be met by energy from biomass. While the development of the bioenergy sector can lead to both economic and environmental benefits in addition to contributing to reaching our renewable energy targets, there are particular benefits to the rural economy.”

He said the proposed new Rural Development Plan (RDP) 2014-2020 provides for some €4 billion in European and national funds for investment in our agri-food industry and the rural economy over its lifetime.

“One of the principal objectives of the draft RDP is to support the more sustainable management of natural resources. The proposed suite of measures in the new RDP, which is currently being examined by the EU Commission, includes a separate Bioenergy Scheme to support the establishment of willow and miscanthus crops for use in renewable energy production.”

He said his officials are at present engaged in intensive bilateral discussions with the Commission with a view to reaching early agreement on a range of informational, technical and policy matters.

“After wind energy, wood fuel is the largest contributor to renewable energy generation in Ireland. In 2013, 33% of the roundwood harvested in the Republic of Ireland, or over one million cubic metres, was used for energy generation. The Department’s draft forestry programme covering the period 2014 – 2020 recognises the need to increase the supply of biomass in order to meet renewable energy targets.”