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Ireland must immediately activate bioenergy’s essential climate and energy role

Ireland must immediately activate bioenergy’s essential climate and energy role
The biomass-heated Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin was the venue for the Irish Bioenergy Association's 22nd National Bioenergy Conference.

Bioenergy is the largest source of renewable energy globally. The recently concluded Irish Bioenergy Association's (IrBEA) national bioenergy conference put a much needed emphasis on the need to accelerate the uptake of bioenergy’s recognition in both policy and technology deployment in Ireland.

Solid biomass, biogas/biomethane, liquid biofuels, and biochar all have a significant role to play in a broader mix of technology and fuelling options to reduce emissions and promote a transition to renewable energy.

We need all renewable technologies and renewable fuels to be deployed as part of a broad renewable energy policy in Ireland. The conference title ‘Bioenergy’s Essential Role in Emissions Reduction and the Energy Transition’ is very appropriate in the current environment of a climate crisis and worries about energy security. IrBEA members have the technologies and fuelling solutions that will address all those concerns, said Paddy Phelan, Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) President and CEO of the Southeast Energy Agency.

A showcase role for bioheat

Eamon Ryan T.D., Leader of the Green Party and Minister for Environment, Climate, and Communication.

The conference venue for IrBEA’s 22ndNational Bioenergy Conference that was held on October 12, 2023 – the Royal Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin – was specifically chosen as it is heated using a 450-kW woodchip boiler with gas for peak load and backup and Colin Brown, Hotel Manager gave a quick presentation of the biomass boiler that has been in operation for quite of a number of years.

It was a point that was picked up by the keynote speaker Eamon Ryan T.D., Leader of the Green Party and Minister for Environment, Climate, and Communication, who coming from annual budget discussions noted in his address that the “carbon tax system is working.”

Regarding the hotel’s biomass boiler, Minister Ryan confessed his ignorance of this fact when his party held a party convention at the said hotel a few years ago.

Minister Ryan was however quick to make amends on this before exiting the conference. And seemingly unbeknown to other conference participants one might add.

You don’t get the front page when you put a new boiler in, but it’s the action we have to accelerate to meet our climate targets. Grateful to participate in the @IrishBioenergy conference today and visit the Royal Marine Hotel’s 16-year-old biomass boiler, Minister Ryan posted onsocial media Xlater in the day complete with a video of a visit to the boiler room prior to his departure from the conference.

A savvy move indeed.

Complete phase-out of peat

Our pursuit of renewable energy, specifically bioenergy, stands at a crossroads in Ireland. We must address policy gaps and foster wider adoption to ensure that all sectors can participate in carbon neutrality, Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) excellence, and insulation from energy price volatility. Together, we can overcome challenges and seize the opportunities presented by bioenergy to create a greener, more sustainable, and resilient Ireland for future generations, Paddy Phelan said.

Showcasing the “bioenergy opportunities” is Bord na Móna, one of the two co-sponsors of the event, which has plans to deploy a wide range of renewable energy generation.

Specifically in bioenergy, this includes 100 percent biomass use at its Edenderry Power and the development of biomethane production capacity.

Bord na Móna is delighted to co-sponsor the 2023 IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference which highlights the critical role Bioenergy is playing and will continue to play in Ireland’s drive towards Net Zero. Leveraging biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source through its Edenderry Power Plant forms an important part of Bord na Móna’s climate solutions offering, said Brendan Kelly, Commercial Manager, Bord na Móna Renewable Energy.

“Edenderry Power Plant will operate off 100 percent biomass from January 2024, assisting Ireland to meet its vital climate action targets. We welcome the ambition of IrBEA and the wider industry in looking to play an even bigger role in helping Ireland reach its Climate Action Plan targets,” said Brendan Kelly, Commercial Manager, Bord na Móna Renewable Energy.

From 2024 onwards,Bord na Móna’s Edenderry Power Plantwill operate off 100 percent biomass supplying 100 percent renewable electricity to the national grid. This shows the potential of bioenergy and how it can help Ireland transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon, renewable energy generation.

As a dispatchable plant, this will help support the national grid when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

It will also stabilize the national grid and enable more MW of intermittent renewable energy (such as wind and solar) to be brought onto the system to help Ireland achieve its Climate goals.

Developing a biomass value chain

Upwards of 80 percent of the biomass material used at Bord na Móna’s Edenderry Power Plant is being supplied by Irish suppliers.

The company’s focus is on maximizing indigenous biomass supplies in the coming years and only sources sustainable biomass meeting the strict criteria outlined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.

Bord na Móna’s biomass requirement provides a significant socio-economic benefit to rural Irish communities. as evidenced by amongst others forestry contractor Ken Worrell, Founder, and Managing Director of Worrell Harvesting who has developed a supply chain for utilizing unused wood and logging residues.

Stepping on the gas

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), the country’s Transmission System Operator (TSO) is actively engaged in encouraging the development of an indigenous biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) industry.

The company has recently complied and released a “Biomethane Energy Report” based upon Request for Information (RFI) responses and outlines the development of the gas network to prepare for increased biomethane connections and injection.

Gas Networks Ireland is delighted to co-sponsor the 2023 IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference. The RFI response in terms of production volumes is more than two and a half times that of Ireland’s stated ambition of 5.7 TWh of biomethane production by 2030, said Padraig Fleming, Biomethane Programme Manager at Gas Networks Ireland.

从天然气网络Irelan关键事实和数字d Biomethane Energy Report touched upon by Fleming include:

  • 176 prospective producer responses received;
  • in volume terms, responses total 14.8 TWh annual production;
  • Median plant production capacity is 40 GWh per annum;
  • The median distance from producers to the gas network is 5 km;
  • Emissions reductions from 14.8 TWh of biomethane of 3.94 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) per annum by 2030.
Padraig Fleming, Biomethane Programme Manager at Gas Networks Ireland taking questions from the floor.

Responses, both in number and volume terms, serve to underline the robustness of the Government’s 2030 biomethane ambition.

Furthermore, an analysis of the current domestic consumption of natural gas relative to the estimates for the national biomethane production potential in 2030 from the RFI indicates that 26 percent of total gas demand could be met by biomethane.

Biomethane is one of the renewable gases of the future and is available today to decarbonize the energy system. Ireland has a real opportunity to develop a biomethane industry at scale, which will offer numerous benefits for our agricultural industry, the decarbonization of our economy, and the development of a key indigenous energy resource in the coming years, Padraig Fleming concluded.

International perspectives

Anna Venturini, Senior Policy Officer at the European Biogas Association (EBA).

Other speakers included representatives from the European associations Bioenergy Europe (Giacomo Bozio Madé) and European Biogas Association (Anna Venturini) – both of which IrBEA is an active member of – that provided a European perspective on bioenergy and biogas respectively while Kathleen Draper, Chair of the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) provided an international perspective of the emerging biochar industry.

Summarizing the event at the close of proceedings Seán Finan, CEO of IrBEA remarked that IrBEA and its members are indeed active in the promotion and deployment of solid, liquid, or gaseous bioenergy.

Today, we explored the many aspects associated with our industry including its potential and opportunity as well as hearing from experts in the emerging carbon removals sector. IrBEA members are keenly focused on developing and delivering clean, renewable energy, along with carbon storage and resource recovery solutions ended Seán Finan.

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