MINISTER DENIS NAUGHTEN
MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, CLIMATE ACTION AND ENVIRONMENT
CAMDEN COURT HOTEL
17th January 2018
Good morning and welcome all. It's fantastic to see this biomethane workshop attended by such a broad array of interests.
All of you gathered here will be aware that we must meet a national renewable energy target of 16% by 2020. Within that target, we are committed to meeting 12% of our heating needs from renewable sources. In 2016 we were just over half way to meeting that target so we urgently need to make progress in this area.
In 2016, Ireland relied on imported energy to meet over 69% of our energy needs. The majority of these imports are fossil fuels and this costs the economy almost €400,000 every hour. That's a cost we cannot afford in cash, and a cost our planet cannot afford at all.
Yet there exists a latent reserve of domestic renewable energy which up to now has remained almost untapped. Anaerobic digestion and biomethane offer huge potential to agriculture, the energy sector and Ireland as a whole.
Harnessing this indigenous energy reserve is an exciting area of development, and one that offers a tremendous opportunity to Ireland to displace imported fossil fuels with local jobs and opportunities for Irish business.
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat will play a key role in increasing renewable energy in the heat sector and helping us to meet our 2020 renewable energy targets. Securing Government approval for the Scheme last month was a key milestone. My officials are now engaged with the European Commission to obtain State Aid approval so that the Scheme can launch later this year. I have also secured €7m in the 2018 Budget for the first phase of the Scheme.
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat is a tangible and viable measure that will kick-start the renewable heat sector. This first round of the Scheme also provides the basis for new commercial opportunities for farmers in heat technologies such as biomass boiler installations and anaerobic digesters. However this is just a first step.
Based on the detailed economic analysis that has been carried out, the Scheme will focus initially on specific technologies – biomass boilers, anaerobic digestion heating systems and heat pumps. However I am keenly aware that many of you would like to have seen a support included for biomethane grid injection.
This position is recognised by Government, and in approving the Scheme, a commitment was made to examine biomethane grid injection for inclusion in successive rounds of the Scheme. Today's workshop is an essential part of this policy development process. Stakeholders such as yourselves are best placed to identify the policy requirements and obstacles that lurk behind the options. In order to reach our climate targets we need to make dramatic changes right across the board, and to achieve that we need collaboration.
Biomethane has many advantages: a boost to meeting our renewable targets, an improvement in our trade balance, an increase in our energy security, and the capability to provide an outlet for our abundant farm and food wastes. Exciting next-generation technologies such as gasification and renewable-power-to-gas offer the potential to augment these advantages even further.
We produce enormous amounts of food waste in Ireland - two tonnes a minute. This needs to be reduced, but where absolutely unavoidable it should be a resource. Anaerobic digestion facilitates this, and along with biomethane grid injection, they form links in establishing a circular economy that is essential for the sustainability of our economy and the survival of our planet.
Today my officials and I are asking you to work with us. Government seldom has all the solutions, and it never has enough resources. But with what it has, when used wisely, it can make a positive difference to individual lives, one issue at a time. When those issues lead-on to coordinated action, substantial change can come.
The climate challenge is not just to change what we do; it is to reimagine how we think. We must reconfigure our economic model from one based on consumption, to one based on efficiency. I look forward to seeing the options available for making biomethane a cost-effective, efficient means to reach our low-carbon future.