Farm Ireland

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Farmers set to 'cash in' on renewable heat scheme

Ireland must support the growing of bio-energy crops such as Miscanthus
Ireland must support the growing of bio-energy crops such as Miscanthus
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

The big switch from fossil fuels to renewable heat systems is set to provide financial opportunities for farmers, a rural TD has claimed.

As the final consultation for the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme — aimed at encouraging industrial and commercial heat users to switch to greener technologies — gets under way, Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, says the move will provide commercial opportunities to farmers nationwide.

“It will bring new markets. As these convert, it will create a demand for more biomass supply and fresh opportunities for local farmers for biomass and potentially biogas producers,” he said.

The scheme, which is required if Ireland is to meet its energy and climate change obligations, will cover additional costs of generating heat from renewable sources by providing a payment on a ‘per unit of energy produced’ basis.

The Roscommon-Galway East TD asked the public to provide feedback to his department on the design options for the scheme before March 3.

To date, farmers have been reluctant to pursue potential opportunities in the bioenergy space until the market developed further.

The rural-based TD is confident that the RHI scheme will encourage farmers to take the next step.

“For this intervention to be successful, it is critical that supply-side policies must be aligned with the demand-side measure that my department is developing,” he said.

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“The scheme will be designed so it ensures value for money for the taxpayers, who are being asked to pay the cost of the RHI subsidy,” he added.

Minister Naughten is proposing that a “budget cap mechanism” should be built into the scheme from the start, ensuring that the more an applicant burns, the lower the incentive.

“I hope this public consultation will stimulate the widest possible feedback and suggestions on support, payments, sustainability and efficiency criteria,” said the Minister.

“The world is changing and we have to change with it.

“I am convinced we can create new opportunities and markets for farmers the length and breadth of this country, while at the same time meet our energy and climate change goals.”

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