The Government's biomass strategy is flawed
The Government continues to ignore the potential of the biomass sector to add a string to the Irish tillage sector's bow at a time when growers are facing serious viability issues.
Despite a slew of sustainable energy plans very little has been achieved. Documents that set targets for future bio-energy production are useless without a plan for everything from feedstock production to final energy use. While our current targets will probably be met, it will be mostly due to imports.
Instead of importing oil and gas with high energy density from remote and politically unstable countries, we will simply import much more bulky materials from countries that are equally remote.
For example, our National RE Action Plan assumes the use of up to 4m tonnes of biomass for energy purposes by 2020.
The restructured forestry scheme is already too late to contribute to the 2020 target.
Planting of crops such as willow and miscanthus would help, but an establishment grant scheme some years ago effectively failed due to lack of thought and support about how we were going to use it.
Even though the long-term prospects are good, growers that planted these crops took a big risk and lack real markets due to the lack of foresight and joined up thinking.