Bioenergy industry 'still waiting for its full potential to be realised' in Ireland

"The contribution of Irish-sourced and produced bioenergy for energy security that's sustainable can no longer be ignored."
Bioenergy industry 'still waiting for its full potential to be realised' in Ireland

Bioenergy can be defined as any form of energy that is derived from living organisms, either plant or animal.

The bioenergy industry is "still waiting for its full potential to be realised" in Ireland.

Bioenergy can "significantly contribute to energy security and reduce Ireland’s dependence on volatile and record high-priced fossil fuels", according to the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).

The association's chief executive Seán Finan was speaking ahead of its 21st National Bioenergy Conference in Co Kilkenny next week, which will gather a wide range of stakeholders involved in the renewable energy sector across Ireland.

The conference, taking place on October 11, is focused on ‘sustainable bioenergy for business: reducing costs, carbon and supply risks’.

The conference is to cover a range of bioenergy items and opportunities covering the sectors of biogas/biomethane, solid biomass, biochar, and liquid biofuels.

Favourable policy

Mr Finan said that the country “desperately” needs all renewable technologies and fuels.

“European and global bioenergy deployment is driven by dedicated policy supports, incentives, and measures,” Mr Finan said.

“The bioenergy industry in Ireland is still waiting for its full potential to be realised by the Government.” 

He said that favourable Irish policy in recent years for wind and solar has helped develop those sectors.

IrBEA had sought for the Government in Budget 2023 to “recognise Irish bioenergy’s potential to buttress energy security and for it to announce dedicated incentives to jump-start the Irish bioenergy industry”.

“Bioenergy can significantly contribute to energy security and reduce Ireland’s dependence on volatile and record high-priced fossil fuels,” Mr Finan continued.

“The contribution of Irish-sourced and produced bioenergy for energy security that’s sustainable can no longer be ignored.” 

He said that a mainstream Irish biogas/biomethane industry using anaerobic digestion technology mobilised on a phased basis would reduce our dependence on fossil gas.

“Mobilising the solid biomass resource can contribute to renewable heat," Mr Finan added.

"Increased blending rates of liquid biofuels has both emissions reduction and fossil fuel displacement benefits.” 

Natural advantage 

Despite the fact that Ireland “has a natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to our mild climate and fertile land”, Ireland ranks "bottom of the EU table" in terms of its generation and use of renewable heat, Mr Finan said.

“We now have a unique opportunity to build a significant industry with multiple benefits using solid, liquid, and gaseous bioenergy,” he added.

“While our focus is on using bioenergy in the transition away from fossil fuels, we acknowledge that building a sustainable economic and social recovery should also embrace related renewable technologies as well as achieving the development of sustainable materials and the protection of our ecosystems.

“Essentially, we need to marshal a wide range of technologies and renewable fuels to decarbonise the energy sector across heat, transport, and electricity.

“This will provide opportunities for many, including farmers and foresters through farm diversification and development of alternative enterprises, development of rural jobs and addressing the climate changes and emissions challenges faced by the country.” 

IrBEA has called for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to introduce support for the energy crop sector.

The association believes that this is an effective way of providing additional indigenous biomass for the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat installations.

The association said it would also provide an alternative farm enterprise, potentially reduce livestock numbers, promote the bioeconomy, rural development, and sustainable jobs.

In Budget 2023, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue allocated €3m for each of the next four years, a total of €12m, to kick-start a farm-based anaerobic digestion sector in Ireland. 

“The establishment of a renewable heat obligation will be critical to the success of this initiative, and I am working closely in partnership with the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications to realise the potential of this sector," Mr McConalogue said.

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