Jump-start bioenergy in Budget 2023 to buttress energy security – IrBEA

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Globally, over two thirds of renewable energy comes from bioenergy. This is over ten times the energy generated from both wind and solar. Budget 2023 is Government’s opportunity to recognise Irish bioenergy’s potential to buttress energy security and for it to announce dedicated incentives to jump-start the Irish bioenergy industry. Bioenergy sources and technology are proven globally, they are available here and now, and it’s high time for action.

Seán Finan, Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) CEO said: “We desperately need all renewable technologies and fuels. European and global bioenergy deployment is driven by dedicated policy supports, incentives and measures. The bioenergy industry in Ireland is still waiting for its full potential to be realised by the Government. Favourable Irish policy measures in recent years for wind and solar have helped develop those sectors. This budget presents the Government with an opportunity to announce measures which support the mobilisation of bioenergy. Bioenergy can significantly contribute to energy security and reduce Ireland’s dependence on volatile and record high-priced fossil fuels. The contribution of Irish-sourced and produced bioenergy, for energy security that’s sustainable can no longer be ignored.

‘Anaerobic digestion’ was almost a mantra in media interviews and on talk-shows for a few heady weeks of summer. It’s time now for the Government to act on that. Bioenergy covers a broad range of sustainable, renewable, indigenous energy alternatives available here on our doorstep. A mainstream Irish biogas/biomethane industry (using anaerobic digestion technology) mobilised on a phased basis would reduce our dependence on fossil gas. The REPowerEU policy demands it. Mobilising the solid biomass resource can contribute to renewable heat. Increased blending rates of liquid biofuels has both emissions’ reduction and fossil fuel displacement benefits. Over the last few weeks, IrBEA, on behalf of members, has lobbied in advance of the budget on the issues impacting our members in the bioenergy sector. IrBEA is calling for a mixture of supports, policy announcements and practical issues to be addressed in the Budget and Finance Act which are impacting our industry and members.

Finan continued “Bioenergy is thriving across Europe. Why is the Irish Government an outlier and not embracing this opportunity also? The EU Commission identifies that the member state with the largest potential growth for biogas / biomethane production is Ireland. Yet to date, we have had mainly Government inaction or inertia in realising this potential. In challenging times, it is vital to exploit all proven opportunities to tackle climate change and enable security of energy supply.”

Despite the fact that Ireland has a natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to our mild climate and fertile land, Ireland ranks bottom of the EU table in terms of its generation and use of renewable heat. We now have a unique opportunity to build a significant industry with multiple benefits using solid, liquid and gaseous bioenergy.

“While our focus is on using bioenergy in the transition away from fossil fuels, we acknowledge that building a sustainable economic and social recovery should also embrace related renewable technologies as well achieving the development of sustainable materials and the protection of our ecosystems. Essentially, we need to marshal a wide range of technologies and renewable fuels to decarbonise the energy sector across heat, transport and electricity. This will provide opportunities for many, including farmers and foresters through farm diversification and development of alternative enterprises, development of rural jobs and addressing the climate changes and emissions challenges faced by the country. The budget is an opportunity to jump-start bioenergy, buttress energy supply, and realise all this other potential with it.”

 

Summary of IrBEA’s Bioenergy budget measures include:

 Mobilising an Irish Biogas/ Biomethane Industry:

Introduction of a Biogas / biomethane support scheme to mobilise an Irish biogas industry on a phased basis. The biogas / biomethane industry needs to be mobilised with policy, incentives, measures and supports similar to what is happening across Europe.

In the current environment of high fossil energy prices and challenges around energy security there should be no further delay in giving market certainty and supporting the development of the industry.

 Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH):  

Budget provision for widespread roll out of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) in 2023 and rapid resolution of administrative implementation issues with the scheme. These issues are severely impacting on the schemes potential to contribute to national renewable heat and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The Minister and SEAI need to ensure that dedicated resources are assigned to assist with the efficient administration and implementation of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) programme.

 Carbon Tax:Despite record fossil energy prices, the carbon tax increase should proceed by a minimum of €10/tonne in the budget, provided effective measures are in implemented to protect vulnerable members of society potentially exposed to fuel poverty. Revenue generated from carbon tax increases should  provide support for the development of bioenergy and a biogas / biomethane industry in Ireland on a phased and sustainable basis.

 Provision in Finance Act – Revenue treatment of Biomass Equipment:

Provision be made in the Finance Act for the revenue treatment of biomass chipping and related equipment to be the same as the treatment of other mobile machinery such as mobile cranes and concrete pumping equipment. This is specially related to using rebated fuel, registration of overweight vehicles and tachograph usage.

 Biofuel Obligation Scheme:

As per the Biofuel Obligation Scheme (BOS), biofuels are blended with petrol and diesel available at the forecourt. We call for the immediate increase of blending rates to E10 (10% Ethanol) petrol blend and B12 (12% Biodiesel) diesel blend in Ireland. This would increase the blending rates from the current substitution rates of E5 for petrol and B7 for Diesel.

  Grant Scheme for Eco Design Heating Appliances:

The National home retrofit scheme is ambitious but challenged due to the high costs, availability of labour & materials and disruption to individuals. While successful for some households, the programmes dedication to the energy efficiency first principal has led it to be unsuitable, costly and disruptive for a large proportion of the population. While we support the energy efficiency first principal where it can be economically viable to pursue, decarbonisation is the priority in the short term. This means looking at fuel use and heating technologies. We call for the introduction in this budget of a grant scheme to support the transition from fossil fuel appliances to eco-design compliant biomass appliances at a residential level. This will support an energy transition to the use of cleaner, energy efficient appliances which will contribute to greenhouse gas emissions savings, and rural employment.

 Energy Crop Support Scheme:

That the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine make provision in their budget for the introduction of support for the energy crop sector. The Irish Bioenergy Association believes that this is an effective way of providing additional indigenous biomass for the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) installations, provides an alternative farm enterprise, potentially reduce livestock number, promoting the bioeconomy, rural development, and sustainable jobs.

 Forestry Programme Implementation Resources:

We support the calls by the forest industry for financial provision be made for increased staff and specialist resourcing in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to address forestry licensing issues and backlog.

 Financial Instruments and Loans Interest Loans:

Introduce financial instruments to assist of Renewable technologies such as:

    1. Expand the capital investment to build district heating networks via the climate action fund.
    2. Introduce a low cost guaranteed loan facility through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SCBI) or similar for the development of bioenergy renewable project similar to the SCBI Future Growth Loan Scheme introduced for the farming sector a few years ago.

What is Bioenergy?

Bioenergy can be defined as any form of energy that is derived from living organisms, either plant or animal. It encompasses a wide range of different types and origins. It can take the form of solid, liquid or gaseous fuel and can be used to provide renewable energy across a variety of sectors including heating, electricity generation and transport sectors.

What are the different forms of Bioenergy?

  • Solid biofuels and wood fuels: Wood pellet, woodchip, energy crops, firewood and biomass briquettes
  • Gaseous Biofuels: Biogas and Biomethane
  • Liquid Biofuels: Bioethanol, Biodiesel, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil and Bio-oil