Bioenergy conference calls for introduction of renewable heat incentive

The 15th annual BioEnergy Conference of the all-island BioEnergy Association taking place in Dublin has said that the commitment to introduce a renewable heat incentive (RHI) for business in 2016 is critical to the development of the bioenergy sector in Ireland.

The conference also calls for its potential to double in size, creating 3,000 new jobs and improving the energy security and sustainability of the energy system on the island of Ireland. Incoming BioEnergy Association President, Michael Doran, said that the introduction of the RHI in 2016 must be a central plank of the energy and climate change policies of a new Government taking up office in Dublin following the 2016 General Election in the Republic of Ireland.

Commenting, IrBEA incoming President, Michael Doran, said: “The bioenergy sector sits at the intersection of energy, agriculture and climate change policies. It is also unique in that it is a truly regionalised, ground-up industry that stimulates economic activity locally for farmers, those involved in designing and installing bioenergy systems and the businesses and consumers that benefit from effective, secure and sustainable heating. We need to accelerate the switch to renewable sources of power right across our economy, in electricity, in transport and in heating. This is our obligation under international treaties to prevent potentially catastrophic climate change, and in our own self-interest as a society and an island economy that is dependent on imported, polluting fossil fuels for 78% of our energy needs.”

Mr. Doran said: “The BioEnergy Association is seeking a renewable heat incentive for businesses switching to bioenergy for their heating needs of €0.076 per kWh falling to €0.002 per kWh above 1MW. This level of incentive will capture the value of public services being delivered by the bioenergy sector. The RHI will provide a tangible demand driver to strengthen supply chains for equipment, fuel sources and skills, driving jobs growth and establishing a strong market for biofuels from forestry and grown by Irish farmers. This year’s conference, with the theme of ‘Unleashing Ireland’s Bioenergy Potential’, addressed the jobs creation and local economic development potential of the Irish bioenergy sector post the COP21 climate change talks held in Paris in December.

He said; “The IrBEA will be seeking an early engagement with the new Energy Minister following the General Election in ROI on the introduction of the renewable heat incentive this year and on wider energy policy to ensure that the Irish bioenergy sector is allowed meet its true potential for jobs and sustainable heat and power creation.”

Mr. Doran added: “Bioenergy is an equal pillar in Ireland’s renewable energy story, alongside wind and solar. 42% of Ireland’s renewable energy is already generated from biomass, mostly as wood. Last December, 186 countries agreed a plan and commitments in Paris to restrict the increase in global temperatures to below 2% and to stop burning the most polluting fossil fuels. The COP21 agreement also includes a regime of national plans that will be reviewed every five years and fines that combine to compel to governments to develop and stick with renewable energy, including bioenergy resources and know-how.

“The bioenergy sector can replace €120 million per year in imports of oil and gas and create 3,000 new jobs by matching locally grown biomass with local energy demand. An RHI targeted at businesses to encourage the switch to bioenergy (mainly wood chip and pellets) for heating needs would release further opportunities for skills development and jobs in our renewable energy sector.”

Éamonn McGrath, Group Commercial Director, Gaelectric, continued: “The Irish bioenergy sector can build on its existing base of 2,000 jobs and many opportunities will emerge as international renewable energy targets and fines start to bite. Gaelectric entered the bioenergy business in 2014 by purchasing Imperative Energy (now Gaelectric Bioenergy), one of the leading providers of bioenergy solutions to business in Ireland and the United Kingdom. With the right mix of policies, the Irish bioenergy sector can double in size. The synergies and benefits for other sectors, including forestry and farming, will also be significant. The alternative scenarios of fines of up to €600 million a year for missing EU targets, lost opportunities for job creation and continuing dependence on imported, polluting fossil fuels should not be acceptable.”

The one-day conference will also feature presentations from Professor Alan Matthews, Emeritus Professor, European Agricultural Policy, Trinity College, Frank Groome of the DCENR and Cara Augustenborg, Chair, Friends of the Earth Ireland. Energy experts from Sweden and Denmark will outline how those countries have grown their bioenergy sectors exponentially in a short time.