Renewable Heat Incentive scheme edges closer

The introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme is edging closer.

Speaking at today’s Energy in Agriculture event in Gurteen College, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Denis Naughten said: “Energy is a scarce resource and it costs money and, simply, we have to manage it better.

“We need to come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things and we have to trial these out to see if they work and progress those that work best.”

The minister added: “There are opportunities there and we need to look at how we can actually increase the amounts of renewable energy on our farms, encourage farmers to adopt measures to increase energy efficiency and to incentivise growth in the area of domestic bioenergy.

On the issue of bioenergy, he said: “We hope to bring a proposal to cabinet on the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme in the next couple of weeks.

“I think it’s a tangible and viable measure to stimulate the growth of our domestic biomass market,” he said.

Opportunities

Crucially, the minister said, it will create a new opportunity for farmers in using new heat technologies, as well as growing crops.

“It will also help us [to] meet our EU renewable energy targets.

I see the RHI scheme increasing the market demand for domestic biomass by up to 110,000t of additional biomass per year or 300t every single day.

“The development of the RHI scheme involved detailed economic analysis over the last 10 months, extensive engagement with the industry and two rounds of public consultation.

“Through that we have received over 200 submissions and they will be incorporated into the final design of the scheme.”

The minster added: “The proposal I will bring to government will include supports for biomass boilers, heat pumps and anaerobic digesters, which will encompass biogas boilers and bio-methane injection into the national grid,” he said.

He also said that a tiered level of payments will apply to each technology under the RHI scheme.

“Payments will decrease with the increasing size of the scheme and the economies of scale. This will provide a balance between ensuring suitable incentives for investment and value for money for the exchequer,” he said.

Naughten added that the scheme will also require EU State Aid clearance and his department has been in contact with the European Commission on this issue.

Now is the time to act

Also speaking at the event, IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association) Renewables Chairman James Murphy welcomed the progress that has been made on the scheme so far.

“I have listened very closely to what the minister has said and there is a huge amount of it that is of great interest to everybody here today.

I would certainly welcome the clarity around the RHI announcement, but I would say to the minster that we need action and we need to move now.

“We need announcements and we need to get moving forward in the area because there is huge interest in the scheme,” he said.

Murphy added that he is waiting on an announcement date and he said that it cannot come soon enough.

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