Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Government blasted for Refit plan delay

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Renewable energy companies have accused the Government of strangling progress in the bioenergy sector by delaying the introduction of critical payments.

Despite announcing Renewable Energy Feed in Tariffs (Refit) rates in May, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan confirmed this week that his department has not yet sent the plan to Brussels for approval.

The Refit tariffs, without which the biomass industry cannot develop any further, are now not likely to be implemented until 2011.

"The whole system is being put on hold by civil servants," said the IFA's renewable energy chairman, JJ Kavanagh.

The Wexford man said companies were putting their lives on the line but nothing was happening for them.

"If the minister and the Government are serious about the bioenergy sector, they must push to implement the tariffs," he urged. "If they are not serious, just tell us and we will not waste any more time or money on these projects.

"Farmers have been establishing bioenergy crops over the last number of years, expecting to supply into the renewable electricity market.

"There are sheds full of bioenergy crops around the country without a market and this must be addressed now."

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Teagasc bioenergy specialist Barry Caslin warned that any progress towards meeting the substitution targets for peat-burning stations and the development of combined heat and power and aerobic digestion units could not begin until a proper payment for biomass, that matched biomass costs, was put in place.

"It is vital that this is tackled by Government immediately because otherwise the bioenergy sector will be in the same position this time next year," he insisted.

"The Government needs to think in the medium-long term about its own goals.

"This sector fulfils its goals on greenhouse gas abatement, job creation, energy security and alternative land use."

The Refit rates announced in May ranged from 13-15c/kilowatt hour for combined heat and power (CHP), 10-11c/kWh for anaerobic digesters, 12-14c/kWh for biomass CHP, 9.5c/kWh for energy crop combustion and 8.5c/kWh for other biomass.

At a meeting of concerned growers on Thursday, a new lobby group, the Irish Biomass Growers Association was formed to represent growers.

Irish Independent