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51 Irish agri-enterprises offered grants for biomass systems, but scheme is under-subscribed

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Fifty-one agricultural enterprises have been approved for biomass-specific grant aid under the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), a government-funded initiative designed to increase the energy generated from renewable sources in the heat sector.

The figure includes 24 poultry farmers, 15 mushroom producers, eight pig farmers, and two horticultural enterprises. The figures were revealed at a recent workshop at Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre, which looked at the role of carbon-neutral biomass in reducing farm fuel costs.

In the agricultural sector, the scheme is particularly aimed at enterprises that depend on fossil-fuelled boilers, Ray Langton, from the SEAI, explained.

The scheme is open to commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating, public sector and other non-domestic heat users. It is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

Although the scheme is getting some traction now, it is generally under-subscribed, Langton said: “We have less than 10 percent of what the scheme can cover, so there is a lot more head room.”

The scheme facilitates the conversion from fossil fuel to renewable fuels and provides operational support for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion heating systems. The SSRH aims to support businesses and farms for up to 15 years for the installation and ongoing use of biomass and anaerobic digestion heating systems.

Bioenergy specialist Barry Caslin said when he got involved in researching this whole area back in 2007, most of the emphasis in Ireland was on growing energy crops, and developing a resource: “There was a scheme by SEAI in 2006 and 2007 where there was a capital grant available for the installation of biomass boilers. But there wasn’t a massive uptake at the time. What we were waiting for was a demand-led policy which we have today in the SSRH, so that is welcome development in the whole area."

He added: “We started promoting that scheme [the SSRH] two years ago but that coincided with a lot of challenges – Covid-19, as well as issues with the application process that have since been ironed out."

Making the transition to renewables has "taken a long time and what is driving it now is fossil-fuel prices", he concluded.