The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has published a draft National Bioenergy Plan for 2014-2020, following on from a previous action plan which covered the 2007-2013 period.
Energy Minister Alex White stated that bioenergy could make a “significant contribution” to meeting Ireland’s heat and transport targets. He added: “The finalised Bioenergy Plan will provide a clear framework for the sustainable development of Ireland’s bioenergy resources and the delivery of real economic benefits to Ireland.”
A joint venture between Bord na Móna and Coillte – to known as BioEnergy Ireland – will procure a steady supply of biomass, including from private forests, and offer the product to the whole market. The plans five high-level themes:
1. demand-side measures to contribute directly to delivering renewable energy;
2. enabling policies to address domestic supply chain challenges;
3. research, demonstration and development;
4. further market support and sustainability measures; and
On the demand side, the Government plans to introduce an Exchequer-funded renewable heat incentive in 2016. A similar incentive was introduced in Britain in 2011 and in Northern Ireland in 2012. The scheme will focus on large commercial and industrial installations which fall outside the emissions trading system.
Existing support mechanisms – such as REFIT 3 and the Biofuel Obligation Scheme – will continue to reward biomass-based electricity generation and the use of biofuels in road transport fuels.
On the supply side, the afforestation programme will also continue. Forest cover currently stands at 10 per cent of the State’s land area and the Government hopes to increase this share to 18 per cent by 2050.
BioEnergy Ireland’s procurement work will help to optimise the supply chain.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will continue to encourage the innovative use of animal by-products for energy purposes. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will aim to optimise the availability of waste for energy.
Continued cross-government support for research, demonstration and development is also pledged, including a cost-benefit assessment of biogas and biomethane.
The Government will also aim to ensure the sustainable use of forest material – considered a scarce resource given the low level of afforestation – and will bring forward policy proposals on the effect of biomass combustion on air quality when the renewable heat incentive is being designed.
The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will establish a bioenergy steering group by the end of this year, to co-ordinate the plan’s implementation.
Minister White confirmed that the draft plan will be subject to strategic environmental and appropriate assessments, including a public consultation. The timescale for the consultation had not been confirmed at the time of going to press but the Minister pledged that alternative approaches to bioenergy would be considered.