Wednesday 28 September 2016

Bioenergy targets not realistic

Ken Whelan

Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30

Nothing has been done to incentivise Irish farmers to grow crops for the bioenergy sector.
Nothing has been done to incentivise Irish farmers to grow crops for the bioenergy sector.

There have been no positive moves by the Government over the past five years to incentivise Irish farmers to grow crops for the bioenergy sector, a climate change expert has claimed.

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The Irish Bioenergy Association conference heard despite predictions the sector would play a key role for Ireland in reaching renewable energy targets, many farmers have stopped growing crops like miscanthus and have ploughed them back into the ground.

UCD Climate Change lecturer, Dr Cara Augustenborg, said Teagasc has also cut back its budget for research work in the sector.

The academic said nothing had changed since she originally conducted a survey of some 172 farmers with an interest in growing energy crops in 2011.

The farmers expressed concern about the government's attitude to the sector with 58pc worried about "unknown profit margins" and over half having concerns about the creation of a guaranteed market for energy crops.

A third also raised concerns about the research being undertaken into energy crops.

"A year ago I read that policy changes were needed for bioenergy to proceed in Ireland and Coillte is on record stating that there is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Ireland will reach the heat target demanded by the Renewable Energy by 2020," said Dr Augestenborg, who is also a climate leader with the Al Gore Foundation,.

An official from the Department of Energy, who attended in place of Energy Minister Alex White, said his department was now fast tracking the introduction of Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which was originally mooted in a draft form in 2014.

Irish Bioenergy Association, chairman Michael Doran, said the RHI could create 3,000 jobs in the sector.

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