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Bioenergy Plan agreed by Government

Dublin, 8 July 2014

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, and the Minister for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd TD, have announced the approval today by Government of the publication of a national Bioenergy Plan.

Commenting on the plan, Minister Rabbitte stated:

“Bioenergy will be an essential element in contributing to Ireland’s future energy needs out to 2020, 2030 and beyond. It has the potential to provide significant economic and environmental benefits. Our available resource – derived from forests, energy crops, animal by-products, and waste – can rapidly increase through policies and actions across energy, forestry, agriculture, waste, and research, development and deployment. The Bioenergy Plan will provide a mechanism to inform and coordinate policy and implementation across these policy areas.”

Minister O’Dowd further commented:

“The establishment of BioEnergy Ireland as a biomass joint venture between Bord na Móna and Coillte is a significant development in bringing forward the necessary supply of biomass to meet growing present and future demand. BioEnergy Ireland will procure biomass at market rates from all sources, including Coillte Forest, private forests and elsewhere, and offer the product to the entire market, including Bord na Móna and Coillte subsidiaries, based on market pricing in a manner that optimises the supply chain. The joint venture will be structured to economically incentivise Coillte to engage with private sector suppliers.”

The Bioenergy Plan consists of two sections. Section 1 sets out the broader context for the development of Ireland’s bioenergy sector, and the current state of play with regard to the range of policy areas that must be coordinated in order to create the conditions necessary to support the development of this sector. There are a wide range of Government departments, agencies and State bodies that are critical enablers for bioenergy development by virtue of their responsibility for areas such as forestry, agriculture, waste, research funding and business development. A key output from the Bioenergy Plan is the identification of ways to ensure the optimal coordination of all of these players.

Section 2 of the plan goes on to identify the next steps that must be taken to support the sustainable realisation of the economic potential of Ireland’s bioenergy resources.

The Bioenergy Plan will be published in draft form later this month, pending completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment. The Annex summarises the key policy actions and enablers contained in the draft Bioenergy Plan.

The Bioenergy Plan will be implemented through a number of policy and enabling actions. The actions fall into five broad, high-level, categories: demand-side measures that contribute directly to delivering renewable energy; enabling policies that address the supply-chain challenges faced by domestic producers of biomass; measures to support research, demonstration and development; further market support and sustainability measures; and governance of the Plan:

- Demand Measures: The demand-side measures contribute directly to delivering renewable energy to contribute to our 2020 targets. The Plan proposes to introduce an Exchequer-funded Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in 2016 subject to State Aid approval from the European Commission and further Government approval for the scheme. The scheme will be aimed at larger commercial and industrial installations outside of the Emissions Trading System to adopt renewable heating solutions. The Plan also recommends the continuation of existing bioenergy measures such as REFIT 3 which rewards the generation of electricity from biomass, including co-firing with peat, and the Biofuel Obligation Scheme which mandates the use of biofuels in road transport fuel.

- Supply Measures: These measures include the continued support for the Afforestation Programme with the aim of increasing the level of annual afforestation. The establishment of the Bioenergy Ireland joint venture will create a streamlined and refocused commercial state company which will procure biomass at market rates in manner to optimise the supply chain. In terms of exploring alternative sources of biodegradable fuels, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will continue to encourage the innovative use of animal by-products for energy and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government will endeavour to ensure the optimisation of the availability of waste for energy.

- Research, Development and Demonstration: The plan recommends the continued support on a cross-Government basis for Research, Development and Demonstration in bioenergy, including conducting an economic assessment of the costs and benefits of biogas and biomethane.

- Further Market Support and Sustainability Measures: The sustainable use of a scarce resource is at the heart of the Plan and it contains recommendations to ensure the sustainable use of forest material. In addition, the possible air quality risks associated with the combustion of biomass are to be addressed with all relevant stakeholders at the design stage of the proposed RHI.

- Governance: Cross-Government cooperation and coordination is essential to the implementation of the Bioenergy Plan. A Bioenergy Steering Group, chaired by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, is to be established to coordinate implementation of the finalised Plan.

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