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Green procurement policy garners a mixed reaction

There has been a mixed reaction to the Government's new "green" procurement policy for the public sector.

The policy has been slated by some bioenergy groups, who say it is full of aspiration but lacks substance.

The 'Green Tenders' action plan is aimed at making the Government's €14bn annual spend on goods, services and works more resource-efficient and less polluting.

The plan has been welcomed by some in the bioenergy sector, including Quinns of Baltinglass and Farrelly Brothers, who say the public sector could lead the way in creating local markets for bioenergy crops.

But the Irish Bioenergy Association (IRBEA) said the plan fell short of demonstrating how the public sector was going to play its role in meeting Ireland's renewable energy targets.

"We have a national biofuel target of 10pc displacement of fossil fuel by 2020 for example, but there is no commitment in this action plan for CIE to meet or exceed this requirement," said IRBEA president Tom Bruton.

"There is an aspiration and notional commitment to supply heat and power to buildings from green sources, but in the absence of targets it will be very difficult for local authority managers to decide to prioritise green energy purchase from local suppliers."

Despite an estimated annual government bill of €200m per year on imported oil for heating public buildings, the Green Tenders policy did not include any targets for converting heating systems to biomass.

Biomass fuels cost only one-third of the price of oil and two-thirds the price of gas, with 80pc of the fuel spend on biomass staying within a 50-mile radius, according to the IRBEA.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) confirmed that only 5pc or less of the 2,000 Government properties in its remit are heated by renewable fuel sources.

An OPW spokesman also confirmed that it had no targets for converting any buildings to biomass heating.

"We looked into doing a conversion programme some years back, around 2007/8, but the capital costs were very high at the time and it was difficult to justify the investment," said the OPW spokesman.

"Since then, our capital funding has been seriously reduced and so it is not possible to contemplate any investment of this type in the foreseeable future. As a consequence at present we have no targets for conversions.

"However, we do look at the opportunities for such heating systems in major refurbishment and new building works," he added.

Meanwhile, IFA bioenergy chairman JJ Kavanagh said real action was required by the Government to prevent farmers losing faith in the whole bionenergy area.

"We will have over 4,000ha of energy crops in the ground this year," he said.

"Let's have something concrete from the Government instead of promises, promises, promises."

Indo Farming