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32
JULY 2019
Energy Focus
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
33
JULY 2019
www.irishfarmersmonthly.com
Energy Focus
Bio-energy's time has come
Following the publication of the Government's Action Plan on Climate Change last
month, Sean Finan, CEO of the Irish Bio-Energy Association (IrBEA), highlights the
important role bio-energy plays in achieving climate change mitigation targets.
"There are several references to bio-energy in the
Government's report and what is important now is that
the actions referred to in the report should be translated
into practical measures on the ground. There is work to
be done to achieve that. Bio-gas, bio-mass and bio-
fuels in general are highlighted in the report and we are
pleased to see recognition of the role they can play in
achieving climate change mitigation targets. Bio-energy's
time has come and implementation of measures to
maximise the benefit of it are now needed."
Renewable heating
Sean believes that while the report emphasises targets
and is less clear on support measures for bio-energy
generation, he is satisfied that the figure in the report
of delivering one terawatt of energy from bio-energy
sources by 2030 is achievable: "The references to bio-
methane injection in the Government's blueprint are very
important because that is what will drive a bio-energy
industry in this country. The other important element
from our perspective is the funding of the SSRH (Support
Scheme for Renewable Heat). It was launched earlier
last month and that will play a significant part towards
decarbonising heating systems in Ireland, in terms of
heating industrial premises as well as domestically."
Another area of importance for the IrBEA is to encourage
the use of bio-ethanol in the fuel mix: "We have lobbied
for a long number of years to get the bio-ethanol blend
increased and there is a commitment within the plan to
increase bio-ethanol blending significantly to e10 level by
2030. That has the potential to greatly reduce emissions
from transport fuels. Bio-gas is also mentioned as a
potential bio-fuel blend, which another important step."
Greater a orestation required
Turning to the agricultural sector and its role in
climate change actions, Sean Finan stresses the fact
that there were no calls in the report for production
cuts in livestock numbers: "At the same time, it does
emphasise the need to increase a orestation up to eight
thousand hectares per year. That's ambitious but not
new as that target is already Government policy. We
are currently planting little more than half that figure.
A whole mindset change will be needed to increase
tree planting to make it a mainstream enterprise in the
whole agricultural production system. There are several
references to biomass in the Government Action Plan,
including an acknowledgement of the need to bridge
a short-term deficit of Irish bio-mass material through
importing product. We feel there is potential to grow our
indigenous bio-mass supply by the reintroduction of the
establishment grant aid for energy crops. Also, there is
mention of supporting the use of biomass to increase the
level of renewable energy in the heating sector. There is
a clear timeline for the use of biogas, in addition to the
other bio-energy utilisation measures. So, from a bio-
energy perspective, the time has come, provided there is
the necessary finance and funding in place to bridge the
transition gap between the cost of fossil fuels and bio-
energy."
A big role for farming
As to where farmers fit into all this, Sean believes they
have a big role to play: "Farmers and agriculture o er
huge potential in terms of helping to achieve our targets.
Energy production at farm level should o set livestock
production so that we continue to achieve our targets
in food output. That will come down to increased
production of bioenergy and other renewable energy.
As well as bioenergy production there is ample rooftop
space for solar energy production. The potential for
biomass production on Irish farms is enormous, alongside
current farm enterprises. It doesn't have to be an either,
or decision. We see bioenergy as a complementary
enterprise alongside other enterprises. A orestation of
even small acreages can play a part. Energy crops will also
play a part with a market now available through the SSRH.
This was not the case in the past."
Bio-gas production is another important aspect of the
whole bio-energy picture. This is where slurry and excess
grass from farms can be utilised for bio-gas production.
That doesn't necessarily mean less grass available for
livestock feeding. We need to increase our current grass
production from an average 7.5 tonnes grass Dry Matter