The Government is committed to increasing renewable energy in the electricity, transport and heating sectors in order to meet the binding target of 16% of all energy to come from renewable sources as set out in the EU Renewable Energy Directive.
Currently, Ireland imports around 90% of its fuel to meet demand at a cost of approximately €6bn per annum. Developing indigenous renewable sources of energy, including bioenergy, will help Ireland reduce its dependence on these imports.
Just over 5% of sugar beet production in the EU is consumed in the EU as biofuel. The development of any plant in Ireland for the production of bioenergy from sugar beet would be a matter for commercial decision by interested parties.
In this regard, I understand that there are consortia which have been examining the feasibility of restarting the production of sugar from sugar beet with a view to also producing bioethanol which can be used as a biofuel in the transport sector. I also understand that the absence of a sugar quota for Ireland was seen as a stumbling block to the proposed projects. However, recently, agreement was secured by the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers to abolish the sugar quota regime by 30 September 2017, and I understand this development has been welcomed by those who are interested in seeking to re-establish a sugar industry here.
The Biofuel Obligation Scheme was introduced in July 2010 as the primary means to meet the target of 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020. The scheme works by obligating large road transport fuel suppliers to bring a certain amount of biofuels to the market. The current obligation is 6% by volume, which I increased from 4% at the beginning of this year and which will be increased further in the coming years. This will see Ireland’s biofuel market grow even further by 2020 and will continue to create opportunities for indigenous industry to produce biofuels here in Ireland.