Farm Ireland

Sunday 16 December 2018

Plans for new financial supports to encourage farmers to grow energy crops

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

Ministers Denis Naughten and Michael Creed are examining potential financial supports that would incentivise farmers to grow energy crops, the Farming Independent has learned.

As public consultations for the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme come to a close, Minister Naughten says he is now focused on progressing talks with the Minister for Agriculture on income gains for farmers who could grow eucalyptus and willow to power a new green energy sector in the midlands.

Over the coming weeks, Mr Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, will present the Government with a memo on Bio Energy Ireland - a new semi-state company that will drive the supply and delivery of biomass and biogas to large heat users in the industrial and commercial sector - particularly Bord na Mona's peat-power plants.

"I am putting the outlet for biomass and biogas in place so farmers will now see there is a strong market demand.

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

"We're creating a supply chain for that with Bord na Mona and Coillte. We have also been working with Teagasc in relation to what are the best crops to use in the best parts of the country," he said.

Although Minister Naughten says a move into the sector will "guarantee farmers cash incomes for 15 years under contract", he acknowledges that previous government attempts to lure agriculture into an indigenous biomass industry resulted in "false dawns".

This sentiment is shared by Minister Creed, who is understood to be "cautiously exploring" the option. "Myself and Minister Creed have been tic-tacking quite regularly on this. There is no point repeating mistakes that have been made in the past," said Minister Naughten.

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