Coillte hoping energy white paper will harness Irish forestry resource

Coillte hopes the Government’s white paper on energy, due later this year, will see Ireland begin to harness its largely untapped private sector forestry resource.

Coillte Enterprise managing director, Mark Foley, said Ireland can move towards heat energy self-sufficiency by building a bio-energy industry around our one million cubic metres of private sector forestry.

For this to progress, however, landowners want delivery on the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) tariff agreed with the Government, Mr Foley told attendees at the Irish BioEnergy Association (IrBEA) annual conference.

“Ireland has around one million cubic metres of private sector forestry plantations,” said Mr Foley. “The challenge is to unlock that resource by offering a viable, incentivised tariff.

“The UK, Germany and others have introduced tariffs that have worked. Ireland does not have to reinvent the wheel on this. Our wind farms are already working with the help of feed-in tariffs and mechanisms. We just need a similar model for biomass.”

Mr Foley said a million cubic metres of grant- induced private sector forestry planted in the 1980s is set to reach maturity within the next decade. This resource could be used to help Ireland meet its renewable heat energy.

Ireland is close to reaching its renewable energy targets for electricity, but is very short on renewable heat energy targets. Success or failure for the sector will lie in the biomass tariff model chosen by Government.

“2015 is an important year as the new white paper on energy comes out later this year,” said Mr Foley. “The RHI model we choose will decide whether Ireland will be a leader or a laggard in this space. We have the resource. The great disappointment to date is that we have yet to take advantage of it.”

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