At the meeting, Minister Ryan reaffirmed the government’s ambition to decarbonise the Irish Energy system by reducing emissions by 7% per annum, surpassing EU targets.
Paddy Phelan, CEO of the Three Counties Energy Agency and president of IrBEA, said: “IrBEA members are identified as key to providing sustainable solutions to deliver this ambitious 7% target.
“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.
“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.”
Main items discussed at the meeting included:
- Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) – Specifically the need for a full roll-out of the SSRH in 2021 now that project inspections and payments have commenced by SEAI in late 2020
- Biomethane support scheme – Potential for a support scheme for biomethane injection was discussed, but no positive indication was given by Minister Ryan whether there would be a support or not in the future. According to IrBEA, Minister Ryan cited concerns regarding biodiversity, potential increased use of chemical fertiliser, and further intensification of agriculture associated with a medium-to-large-scale biomethane industry.
- Farm-scale biogas – IrBEA briefed Minister Ryan on the Association’s work through the Department of Agriculture-funded European Innovation Partnership project to demonstrate the potential for small-scale farm-based AD plants on Irish farms
- Dry wood fuels – The campaign by IrBEA to introduce regulation of the moisture content of firewood for sale to address air emissions issues was ‘positively received’ by Minister Ryan
- Heat plan – The development of a heat plan for Ireland through Renewable Energy Ireland, of which IrBEA is a member, was highlighted. The role of bioenergy to decarbonise heat all temperature ranges and across all sectors was emphasised. The example of Danone’s milk powder plant in Wexford was cited as a ‘great example’ of local woodchip supply chains meeting climate targets.
- Transport plan – IrBEA outlined its proposal to develop a decarbonisation plan for the transport sector, which will be published in Q2 2021
- Forest sector – The impact of delays in the forestry licensing system and impact was highlighted.
Maurice Ryan, director at Greenbelt and IrBEA vice-president said the continuing delays from the Forest Service is “severely impacting” the forest sector.
“Forestry has huge potential and a very important role to play in supporting the agriculture industry in reducing our emissions,” said Ryan. “Forestry delivers timber, energy, and delivers for the bioeconomy. Forestry can promote biodiversity and land use improvement. These are mutually important topics and need to be part of future discussions.”
The failure to achieve 2020’s renewable energy targets was acknowledged at the meeting. It was noted that investing the €50 million fine paid by the Irish taxpayer for not achieving the Renewable Heat target since 2010 would have been better invested in Renewable Heat supports, which promoted sustainable, local biomass supply chains for the supply of renewable fuel.
Sean Finan, CEO of IrBEA, said: “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 support historically for bioenergy has resulted in failed renewable energy targets in Ireland. At IrBEA, we will work with Minister Ryan, his department and SEAI to assist in the delivery of the challenging renewable energy targets for 2030 and always highlight the key role that bioenergy has in this regard.
“Bioenergy has many socio-economic benefits locally and regionally, which justify the need to invest in the required support for biomass, biogas, and biofuels, instead of buying the renewable energy credits from other EU Member States.”