Government announces support scheme for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion

Anaerobic digester
Anaerobic digester
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The second phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), which will provide operational support for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion heating systems has opened.

This scheme is designed to replace fossil fuel heating systems by heat pumps and by heat from biomass or anaerobic digestion.

The scheme will include protections to ensure that the heat supported is sustainable, used for useful purposes and represents value for money for the taxpayer.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has said over the lifetime of the scheme, the successful delivery of this programme can reduce carbon emissions by 11Mt.

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) will support commercial, industrial, agricultural and other non-domestic heat users to adopt renewable heating systems.

The tariffs have been calculated to compensate the difference between renewable technologies and the fossil fuel counterfactual, i.e. natural gas.

Existing biomass or biogas installations will not be eligible for support under the SSRH. 

The Department has said that the lessons learned from similar schemes in other jurisdictions have been integrated into the design of the SSRH. This is likely a reference to the RHI 'Cash for Ash' scandal in Northern Ireland.

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In particular, there are eligibility criteria that projects must continue to conform to over the period of support (up to 15 years). 

These criteria will ensure that heat generated is applied to useful, economically justified purposes only.  In addition, there are a number of budget management mechanisms to ensure value for money for the exchequer. 

These include project budget caps, an annual budget cap for the scheme, annual reviews of the tariffs offered to new applicants and periodic tariff reviews to prevent windfall gains.

Applications are open today. This round of the Scheme will support businesses and farms for up to 15 years for the installation and on-going use of biomass and anaerobic digestion heating systems. The Scheme is designed to support up to 1,300 GWh of renewable heat per year (equivalent to the heating needs of circa 120,000 homes).

IrBEA CEO Seán Finan welcomed the announcement as he said that the biomass heating sector is currently in a state of stagnation and has waited many years for this scheme to open.

"This scheme is the kick start that this industry requires to mobilise the renewable heat sector in Ireland. We are currently reviewing the full terms and conditions of the scheme released this morning," he said.

"I strongly encourage non domestic heat users  including farmers to consider applying for this scheme and install a biomass heating system through the SSRH which will deliver long term environmental and economic benefits."

Overall, the projects supported will increase the renewable heat use in Ireland by three percentage points and decrease emissions in the non-ETS sector by approximately 300,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

The scheme has integrated lessons learned from other similar schemes in other jurisdictions and, as a result, includes detailed eligibility and budgetary controls.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) will administer the scheme.  Jim Gannon, CEO of SEAI, commenting on the launch said: “Across Europe, heating remains one of the most challenging areas in which to achieve carbon emission reductions. This scheme is a vital component part of the Government’s overall policy framework to decarbonise heat. SEAI is looking forward to delivering the scheme efficiently and effectively, mobilising the marketplace while maintaining a keen focus on value for public moneys.”

The first phase of the SSRH, an installation grant for heat pumps, opened in September 2018 and supports ground, air and water source electric heat pump installations with grant-aid up to 30% of the capital outlay. Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the scheme for the period up to 2027.

Full details of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat including the tariff levels, terms and conditions and how to apply are available on SEAI’s website.

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