Biofuel plants have been a write-off, says Teagasc
The renewable energy sector in Ireland is grinding to a halt, according to one of the country's leading experts on the subject.
In the week when the Minister for Energy and Natural resources is set to announce the start of a long awaited renewable energy scheme, it has emerged that just one of the six biofuel plants that were built over the last decade remains in production today.
None of these plants, which were built with millions of euro of State grant aid, currently produce a single drop of biofuel for sale on the Irish market.
While acknowledging that the REFIT 3 scheme for renewable electricity projects is a welcome starting point, Teagasc's Barry Caslin said that the support rates for technologies such as on-farm biogas production were simply too low to allow the required development of this sector.
"The support available in Northern Ireland and Great Britain is up to double what is being made available here. There is also no support for small-scale electricity generators such as wind turbines, photo-voltaic panels and hydro-electric generators. This will result in a payback that can be as long as 40 years, which is simply too long," said Mr Caslin.
The renewable energy specialist believes the lack of progress in the sector leaves Ireland wide open to multi-million euro fines from Europe for not meeting the renewable energy targets looming in 2020.
"The most difficult target of all is achieving 12pc renewable heat by 2020. There is currently no policy mechanism in place for this to be achieved," he said.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has predicted that the country will need to produce almost 8pc of its energy requirements from biomass by 2020 to hit our EU targets. However, the current figure stands at just 2pc.