Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

REFIT awaits Cabinet call

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Cabinet approval will be the final hurdle to be crossed before the REFIT scheme for biomass crops can be implemented.

If approved, the legislation will allow at least 27 biomass projects to get off the ground.

The projects account for a combined capacity of 56MW of electricity and would be enough to power 10,000 homes.

The Irish Bioenergy Association (IRBEA) has estimated that more than 200 jobs would be created in the construction and operation of the 27 plants.

Around half of the projects in the pipeline are biogas digesters using farm waste or food manufacturing waste, while the rest are related to using wood fuel, straw or energy crops, such as miscanthus, to generate renewable power and heat.

The legislation would also open the door for a major increase in demand for farmers to grow miscanthus and willow for combined heat and power (CHP) plants and anaerobic digesters (ADs).

Limerick-based company JHM Crops claimed the implementation of the REFIT scheme could result in a trebling of its demand for miscanthus crops within five years.

JHM's Joe Hogan said REFIT would increase the area of miscanthus grown on contract from its current level of 4,000ac to 12,000ac within five years once the scheme was implemented.

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Quinns of Baltinglass plans to double the number of acres it grows on contract from around 2,000ac to 4,000ac within three years, according to its bioenergy head, David Tyrrell.

An IRBEA delegation met with Andrew Doyle TD, chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Natural Resources and Agriculture, to emphasise the importance of securing Cabinet approval.

IRBEA's Noel Gavigan said Mr Doyle seemed very positive about the scheme and could not foresee any objections from within the Government to passing the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Commission for Energy Regulation has initiated consultations on the certification of high efficiency combined heat and power plants.

The consultations are aimed at setting out definitions of the plants and will be crucial in determining the rate of REFIT tariff to be applied to individual plants.

For example, an anaerobic digester producing both heat and power would receive a 15c/kWh tariff but a non-CHP anearibic digester would only receive a tariff of 11c/kWh.

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