For a smart grid future
22nd August 2012
The heat is on
22nd August 2012

Why is nobody talking about Renewable Heat?

Des-O'-Toole An incentive focussed on renewable heat in the industrial sector would stimulate significant economic activity says Des O’Toole, Coillte.

Coillte is playing a key leadership role in delivering renewable energy technologies and climate change mitigation by providing biomass energy solutions to Irish industry. Coillte provides long term, secure biomass fuel supply contracts to its clients and can assist in the evaluation of the suitability of biomass technology for your facility.

The Government White Paper on Energy Policy set a target of 12% of thermal energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. The renewable heat sector however remains largely undeveloped. Heat from renewable energy sources (RES-H) has grown slowly from 2.4% (2000) to 4.4% (2010) mainly as a result of wood waste utilised in the timber processing sector. Irish industry and manufacturing sectors could provide a huge contribution to the Government’s target of 12%, while enhancing their own competitiveness.

We believe that a modest renewable heat incentive, focussed on industrial scale users, would stimulate significant levels of economic activity and generate returns that would far exceed its initial investment costs.

In addition to stimulating economic activity and contributing to national renewable energy targets, an appropriate stimulus would have the further benefits of:

­• Reducing fossil fuel imports and improving fuel security

­• Improving the competitiveness of Irish industry by reducing fuel costs and protecting them against price volatility

­• Stimulating rural development and local job creation

­• Significantly reduce the cost of Greenhouse Gas emissions

In today’s economic climate, Irish businesses cannot afford to ignore the high cost of energy. Ireland’s dependence on imported fossil fuel has left energy consumers vulnerable in terms of energy security, energy price volatility and exposure to carbon taxes. The Irish biomass resource plays an important role in contributing to the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland. Forestry acts as a sink for the removal for CO2 from the atmosphere. Biomass can substitute for fossil fuels and be used to produce process heat and steam for industry, or in power production through Combined Heat and Power technologies. Switching to biomass renewable heat would not only reduce the cost base of Irish companies but would protect them from the price volatility associated with traditional fossil fuels.

While biomass fuel is considerably more cost effective than fossil fuels, the capital cost of biomass boiler technologies for industrial users tends to be more expensive than traditional fossil fuel alternatives. We believe that a modest Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), similar to the scheme recently established in the UK, is needed to offset this initial investment. This would undoubtedly stimulate significant conversion to biomass energy in Irish industry and would yield substantial returns for the Irish economy.

Rising energy costs and the focus on taxing the polluters should eventually stimulate demand at the industrial scale level as we strive towards the ultimate goal of displacing fossil fuels with a local indigenous renewable resource such as biomass. But why would we leave ourselves dependent on external energy markets when cheaper, cleaner, greener energy is available today. With a relatively modest investment we could make substantial progress against our renewable energy targets, improve our natural environment and enhance Irish industry. Why would we wait any longer?

Des O’Toole, Biomass Business Development Manager, Coillte Teo