DENIS NAUGHTEN TD
MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS, CLIMATE ACTION AND ENVIRONMENT
ENERGY IN AGRICULTURE 2018
GURTEEN COLLEGE, ROSCREA, Co. TIPPERARY
10:00 AM TUESDAY 21 AUGUST 2018
It is great to be back again at Gurteen College. I feel very much at home here in the heart of Ireland. As someone who comes from Ireland's most rural constituency, and someone whose family live in rural Ireland, I keenly recognise the benefits that farming and agriculture bring to our society, to our economy and to our environment. I am also fully aware of the many challenges facing farmers and rural society in general, today - whether it is de-population; rural crime; access to services including high speed broadband; or climate change, and the devastating impact this year's weather events have had on the farming community across Ireland.
I am privileged to be in a position where I can address a number of these challenges, and where I can provide direction to my Department on policies that will bring benefits to rural Ireland.
I would like to thank the Energy In Agriculture committee for inviting me here today, specifically the IFA, Teagasc, Tipperary Energy Agency and Gurteen College. I would also like to thank Tipperary County Council and in particular the Cathaoirleach Cllr Mattie Ryan and Chief Executive Officer Joe MacGrath. I also want to acknowledge the event sponsors, Dept of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, AIB, CPL Fuels, Local Enterprise Offices and in particular the SEAI who are the headline sponsors here today.
Now, I'd like to update you on some of the energy related policies that I have developed with my Department over the past twelve months.
Some of these policies are at a national level, delivering on national obligations and targets, such as the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat and the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).
Others are more targeted at specific sections of society such as the new pilot micro generation scheme and smart farming. I am committed that all of these policies will provide real opportunities for rural Ireland and for the farming community.
SSRH, RESS and Community Returns
On June 14th 2018, the recast Renewable Energy Directive was agreed at European level. This new regulatory framework includes a binding renewable energy target for the EU of 32% by 2030. Ireland will need to make a significant effort in our national contribution towards this target and the detail will be set out in our draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which will be published later this year.
This year alone, many of you will have experienced first-hand the impact of climate change in Ireland, and its devastating consequences in terms of fodder shortages and the impact on our water supplies. Events like these can be catalysts for change as they make us think differently about how we use our energy, our land and our water. We will all need to focus more on conservation and energy efficiency first, if we are to deliver the societal change that is needed to address these challenges.
Since I spoke at this event last August, I have secured Government approval for the introduction of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat. The scheme will support agricultural, commercial and other non-domestic heat users to adopt renewable heating systems. The scheme will also create new commercial opportunities for Ireland's bioenergy and renewable heat industries.
Last December, I published the Scheme Overview which sets out the types of support mechanisms under the scheme and the high-level framework for the Terms and Conditions. Since then, my Department has been engaging with the European Commission to progress the State aid approval for the SSRH. My Department is also examining options for potentially expanding the SSRH to include support for biomethane grid injection. As part of Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan published earlier this year sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the scheme for the period 2018-2027.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will administer the SSRH and they are currently developing the detailed Terms and Conditions for the scheme. Earlier this month, the SEAI published the working draft of the Terms and Conditions in order to assist stakeholders in preparing for the scheme.
The draft Terms & Conditions are designed to ensure that the heat generated under the SSRH will be sustainable, applied for useful purposes and represent value for money for the taxpayer. Ray Langton from the SEAI will speak in more detail about the SSRH later this morning.
My intention is that the first element of the SSRH – the installation grant for heat pumps – will open for applications next month and the full SSRH will be in operation by the end of the year, subject to State aid approval from the European Commission.
Last month I received Government support for the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, which is now subject to EU State Aid approval. While the scheme was primarily designed to deliver Ireland's contribution towards the EU renewable energy target, I wanted to ensure that this scheme also delivered more.
I also wanted to ensure that this scheme enhanced Ireland's security of supply, a critical objective given the fact that Ireland imports close to 70% of its energy needs, with much of it coming via the UK.
Furthermore, I wanted to ensure that the new scheme would provide opportunities for rural communities, including farmers, to participate in and benefit from renewable electricity projects. This will be crucial to drive broader participation in Ireland's transition to a more decentralised and decarbonised electricity system.
Key to bringing this forward will be developing an Enabling Framework for Communities and this includes a national Community Benefit Register, a ring fencing of capacity under RESS for community-led projects and an obligation on all projects to offer investment opportunities, at the appropriate time, to those living in proximity to renewable electricity projects.
One of my officials, Paul Ahern is here today and will speak to the community aspects of the new RESS in more detail later this morning.
I would like to thank both the IFA and the Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA) for their submissions to the RESS public consultation process. Public consultation is a critical and integral part of policy formation for my Department. The TEA submission highlighted some of the benefits of greater community involvement in renewable energy deployment.
The RESS will provide opportunities for farmers and others in rural Ireland to develop projects within the Community-led category of RESS and to participate in all projects supported under RESS, in their local area.
Last month, I launched a pilot scheme for micro generation, initially targeting solar PV, self-consumption and domestic customers. Built into the scheme will be a rolling review which will examine the costs and associated grant levels at 6 month intervals, and will look at possibilities for broadening what technologies are supported and also the possibility of broadening the scheme to wider groups, including farms and small businesses.
In terms of broadening out supports for solar PV to other groups, I have already asked the SEAI to undertake some analysis of the various support approaches and required support levels and this analysis will form part of the 6 month rolling review.
The SEAI are working with all relevant stakeholders to develop a micro generation Code of Practice, covering product requirements, installation standards and installer registration.
This engagement continues apace with a further workshop on the Code of Practice held last week between industry and the SEAI.
The SEAI will administer the new scheme and I would encourage all farmers here today to visit the SEAI stand. You can find out more about this pilot scheme, but also about how to be more energy efficient on the farm and the supports and funding opportunities that are available such as the Better Energy Communities scheme and the Small Business Energy Management training.
The Smart Farming Programme is a voluntary resource efficiency programme led by the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
I am a firm believer in the value of this Programme and the Smart Farming Progress report for 2017 identifies significant cost savings on participating farms. The report identifies, on average, cost savings of approximately €8,700 on participating farms. Dairy farms represented the largest average cost savings of participating farms (€10,200). The cost savings on participating livestock farms was €6,900. Critically, the Programme also identifies ways for farmers to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions by up to 10%.
The smart farming programme has cross-cutting benefits for climate change mitigation, adaptation, water quality and biodiversity and it is of critical importance from a national policy perspective.
Dairy Farm Grants
I like schemes that deliver benefits to farmers and reduce carbon emissions. Last year my Department funded a pilot scheme launched by SEAI for dairy farmers in collaboration with Teagasc. The aim of this scheme was to reduce the energy use on Dairy Farms by reducing electricity costs. This scheme provided funding for variable speed drive pumps, heat recovery, and smart meters.
There were 55 successful applications to date this year with €212,000 of offers out to farmers. This is a fine example of Government agencies working effectively together to help farmers achieve real savings, and cut Ireland's carbon emissions.
One farmer's story will give you an insight. David - his real name - has a dairy herd of 178 cows in Co. Cork. Following his successful grant application, he installed two new variable speed drive vacuum pumps costing €15,210. He received 50% of the cost as a Government grant from the SEAI.
The estimated annual saving to David is €2,500. That is a three year payback for David, everything beyond that is a gain for him and the reduced energy emissions will be enduring benefits for us all. There were wider benefits from these pumps; they have a longer life span, require less maintenance, and are quieter.
This year we expanded the scheme with a €400,000 allocation. Applications to date have been slower than I had hoped – but I know it has been a very difficult year for farmers.
I would strongly encourage any Dairy Farmer to consider the opportunities available under this Scheme – if not now then for next year. The outcomes benefit farmers; and, by reducing carbon emissions, help us tackle climate change – which benefits us all.
To finish, I am committed to delivering for all parts of Ireland, on energy and climate matters. Rural Ireland and the farming community has a key role to play. I would urge you all to take time here today and visit the trade stands and find out what solutions and supports are available to you now.
Thank you for your time this morning.