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Fast-tracking the Irish energy transition from grey to green

Fast-tracking the Irish energy transition from grey to green
A gas-to-grid injection test site in Ireland where bioCNG is injected into the natural gas grid.

With recent European and national renewable energy policy developments in mind, the upcoming annual Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) National Bioenergy Conference that will be held in Dún Laoghaire, southeast Dublin on October 12, 2023, ought to be of particular interest. Not least when it comes to transportation and heat.

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The overall theme of this year’s edition, the 22ndIrBEA National Bioenergy Conference is ‘Bioenergy’s essential role in emissions reduction and the energy transition’, and the comprehensive agenda covers renewable heat, transport, and electricity. Speakers will discuss how Ireland can further embrace bioenergy within the energy mix and the positive impact bioenergy can make in emissions reduction, the energy transition, and energy security.

Undoubtedly, the conference will be an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss how bioenergy can be embraced as part of the energy transition to renewable energy technologies while taking stock of what is actually being done.

AsIrBEA, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and otherslong since have pointed out, Ireland has a wide range of readily available feedstocks that can be mobilized to drive the entire bioeconomy sector, including bioenergy.

It’s no secret that in order to meet its renewable energy and decarbonization targets, Ireland needs to physically scale up its transition to renewable energy rather than fiscally through thestatistical transfer mechanism. While the conference agenda covers all aspects, renewable heat is set to be one of the “hotter” topics to be discussed.

Why? The conference venue in Dún Laoghaire is a massive 228-bedroom Victorian-era ‘listed’ building that has a modern 450 kW woodchip-fired heating system. April this year saw the opening of theTallaght District Heating Networkand the HeatWorks Energy Centre in the southwest of the city – the country’s first publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company that utilizes waste heat from an Amazon data centre in Tallaght with heat pump technology, a first-of-its-kind in Ireland.

Albeit waste heat utilization with heat pumps, the key point is that it is district heating and that every MW counts. Furthermore, a National District Heating plan has recently been introduced, and (finally) on the cards is the Dublin District Heating Project to utilize the heat from the 60 MWe Dublin Waste-to-Energy plant in Poolbeg, which wascommissioned back in 2017as a heat-ready combined heat and power (CHP) plant (by Coventa). Once, rather than if, realized, it stands to make a difference.

Solid biomass plays a substantial role in the domestic, commercial, industrial, and utility setting, replacing coal, oil, and fossil gas – the conference venue is a case in point.Bord na Móna’s Edenderry power plantis another, targeting 100 percent biomass by 2024, and speakers from the semi-state firm will no doubt provide an update. The conference will also touch on emerging marketssuch as biochar, bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), and carbon dioxide removals (CDR) which should add dimensions to bioenergy and district energy discussions.

Biomethane, aka renewable natural gas (RNG) ought to be another major talking point at the conference. Not least for heat with therelaunch of the SSRH schemefor Biomass and Anaerobic Digestion heat systems earlier this year but also for transportation with the recentDHL-Tesco announcementin mind. Again, as previouslypointed out by IrBEA et al, anaerobic digestion (AD) technology can be deployed on a wide range of biomass resources, readily available across Ireland on farms, food processing plants, and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) to mention a few.

According to IrBEA, Ireland “must support sustainable, efficient and competitive renewable technologies that can also help deliver on security of supply. Bioenergy is well-placed to satisfy these requirements.” Quite so, and how well placed in the Irish context will be revealed at the22ndNational Bioenergy Conferenceon October 12, 2023.

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