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Ireland’s RESS scheme ignores bioenergy potential, says IrBEA

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The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) has expressed frustration over the recent Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) consultation.

IrBEA believes that the additional value of renewable electricity generation from bioenergy ahead of intermittent generation, in terms of continuous supply and grid stability, is not recognised in the RESS system.

The RESS system aims to promote electricity generation from renewable sources by providing financial support to projects in Ireland. RESS auctions are held at ‘frequent intervals’ throughout the lifetime of the scheme, allowing Ireland to take advantage of falling technology costs and avoid ‘locking in’ higher costs for consumers, according to the Irish Government.

The RESS 2 consultation document did not contain details of any specific category allocation for bioenergy projects, including biomass and biogas, similar to solar’s ‘preferential’ category in the last RESS auction.

“RESS auctions are intended to be technology-neutral but are biased towards technologies that provide a low MWh cost only,” said Sean Finan, CEO of IrBEA.

“Bioenergy cannot compete on a cost only basis with other intermittent electricity sources such as wind and solar. The current maximum offer price is also a limiting factor and precludes bioenergy generation.

“It seems that no value is currently placed on continuous generation, grid stability and the additional environmental, financial and social benefits that bioenergy generation could provide. This may prove detrimental, if not addressed, to the Irish power grid and economic growth.”

A developer considering a wind or solar project has a high level of certainty that the RESS will be a potential support for their project, IrBEA noted. This gives confidence and allows investment by the developer in terms of project development costs. The association believes the market needs to be provided with some level of assurance around future support through RESS for CHP bioenergy projects, for them to develop.

“Intermittent technologies such as wind and solar have certainty through the RESS process,” said Finan. “They can plan for future auctions and invest in project development costs accordingly, with the assurance that there will be a potential support available in the future through the auction system. Bioenergy projects do not have the same certainty. As a result, it’s difficult for the project pipeline to develop.

“The Department of Environment, Climate & Communications (DECC) and Minister Ryan need to signal their future intentions immediately regarding specific support for bioenergy through the RESS auction system.

“The Department has indicated that there will be a separate RESS offshore wind auction in the short term. Why can’t there by a separate RESS bioenergy auction also?”

Finan concluded by saying the association urges DECC and Minister Ryan to engage with the bioenergy industry and ensure that future RESS auctions support a wider range of renewable electricity sources.