Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Questions (150)

Martin Ferris


252 Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her Department’s policy regarding the promotion of biomass production and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25729/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Agriculture and Food)

The Department of Agriculture and Food is aware of the potential of biomass, including wood biomass, in the generation of renewable energy. Biomass production from early forest thinnings offers considerable scope for use in renewable heat and electrical energy production. In this regard, the National Council for Forest Research and Development is closely involved with the work of the bioenergy strategy group, which was established by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

The strategy group's objectives are to examine the potential supply and use of biomass in meeting Ireland's renewable energy targets and to make recommendations to the Government on financial and structural supports and any adjustments to the regulatory environment that will help to realise the potential of biomass. Consultants engaged by Sustainable Energy Ireland are considering options for the implementation of the EU Biofuels Directive, 2003/30/EC, in Ireland. The consultants' report, which is due to be published near the end of this month, will feed into the bioenergy strategy group's analysis of the sector. The bioenergy strategy group is due to report by the end of the year.

The forestry service has provided funding for a pilot project involving 47 hectares of short rotation willow coppice for biomass production. A number of biomass energy projects, supported under Sustainable Energy Ireland's research, development and demonstration programme, are up and running. The projects include a combined heat and power plant at Enniskeane in County Cork, a district heating system at Jerpoint in County Kilkenny and the new Coillte Teoranta offices at Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow.

The Department of Agriculture and Food introduced an energy crops scheme in March 2004 under the conditions laid down in Title IV, Chapter 5 of Council Regulation No. 1782 of 2003. Under the scheme, aid of €45 per hectare is granted for areas sown under energy crops and used for the production of biofuels and-or electrical and thermal energy produced from biomass. The aid is granted only in respect of areas whose production is covered by a contract between the farmer and a processor, except in the case of processing undertaken by the farmer on his or her holding. Any agricultural raw material with the exception of sugar beet may be grown under the energy crops scheme provided that it is intended primarily for use in the production of energy products derived from biofuels or biomass.