€300m penalty if we don't meet bioenergy targets
Bioenergy crops like miscanthus or indeed willow must play a significant role if Ireland is to avoid massive EU penalties of circa. half a billion euros per year from 2020 onwards.
The optimists predict that the shortfall in reaching our Bioenergy heats may only be 2pc, which would still result in a penalty of circa. €300m per year. One acre of a well-established crop of miscanthus can easily replace 2,000 litres of imported fossil fuels.
The Department of Agriculture introduced an establishment grant to cover 50pc of the establishment's costs some seven years ago. This was seen at the time as a positive commitment by the Government to support Bioenergy crops in Ireland.
Now seven years later we have a situation where more and more of these Government-supported bioenergy crops are being ploughed in, resulting in a huge loss of money to the unfortunate pioneering growers.
So what went so terribly wrong? The first place to start proportioning culpability is with the promoters who clearly advised that miscanthus would grow merrily on for 20-25 years in almost any type of soil and low soil fertility levels were of little consequence when the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was all it required!
How wrong and misguided we were:
- miscanthus requires 100 units of Potash per acre per year;
- miscanthus will only achieve maximum yield potential when planted in the best fertile cereal soils;
- invariably miscanthus was planted in the poorest of cereal soils or even worse still, in old lay ground where the wireworms did immense damage in years two and three;
- weed control was often inadequate or non-existent contributing, also to poor crop establishment.
I include myself as one of the first pioneering growers and as an advisor with Quinns of Baltinglass, also include myself as one of the earliest promoters of miscanthus.
We have learned during the last seven years some very valuable but expensive lessons.