Having regard to the range of areas such as forestry, agriculture, waste, research funding and business development that have a role in the development of bioenergy, there are a wide range of Government Departments, agencies and State bodies that are critical enablers for the development of the sector. The draft Bioenergy Plan sets out the policy areas that must be coordinated to support the development of the bioenergy sector in Ireland. It identifies a number of supply-side and demand-side measures to support the sustainable development of the sector.
Since its publication, a number of the actions set out have progressed significantly, such as the approval by Government of a new Support Scheme for Renewable Heat. Furthermore, the publication of the Energy White Paper (Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future) and the National Mitigation Plan have provided an updated policy context. The draft bioenergy Plan is being updated to reflect these and other policy developments. The updated plan along with a Strategic Environmental Assessment and NATURA Impact Statement is currently under development and will be published for public consultation.
The production of biogas and biomethane from anaerobic digestion has significant potential in Ireland. Biogas can be utilised to generate electricity and in the heat sector. Biomethane, produced by removing impurities from biogas, can be used as a substitute for natural gas and can be injected directly into the gas network or used as a transport fuel. In addition to being a source of renewable energy, it can also provide an outlet for farm wastes.
An assessment of the costs and benefits of biogas and biomethane was undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and published. This formed part of the detailed economic assessment on the design and cost of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat.
Operational support for anaerobic digestion heating systems will form part of the first phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat. Other technologies and methods of support are under consideration for subsequent phases of the scheme, including biomethane grid injection. In this regard, my Department continues to examine how best to support biomethane production. This included a stakeholder workshop to examine potential support options with industry stakeholders held last month.