Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Questions (506)

Eoin Ó Broin


506. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether renewable natural gas has a role in the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. [7770/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Renewable gas includes biogas, which can be combusted to generate heat or electricity, and biomethane, which is produced from biogas and can be injected into the gas grid and used for the same applications as natural gas.

In addition to contributing to decarbonisation in the energy sector, the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion also has the potential to reduce emissions in the agriculture and waste sectors. In this regard, I believe there exists a real opportunity for biogas and biomethane to contribute to the transition to a low carbon future.

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat has been developed to financially support the adoption of renewable heating systems by commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating and other non-domestic heat users not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. The next phase of the scheme includes support for anaerobic digestion heating systems which produce biogas and combust it to produce heat. This phase of the scheme is expected to open for applications early this year, subject to the European Commission state aid process. Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the scheme for the period up to 2027.

In addition, Gas Networks Ireland is currently delivering the Causeway Project, which is co-funded by the European Union and includes a biomethane injection facility allowing biomethane to be injected into the gas grid for the first time. This facility is expected to be operational in the coming weeks. In addition, under the first call for applications from the Climate Action Fund, a further Gas Networks Ireland project was successful, which will include the installation of a second biomethane injection facility.

The draft National Energy and Climate Plan, which was published in December 2018, sets out additional measures that are planned to be implemented over the period to 2030. These planned measures include supporting 1.6 TWh (i.e. 1.6 million MWh) of biomethane injection into the gas grid by 2030. It should be noted that there is a cost differential for energy consumers between natural gas and biomethane. How this cost differential could be bridged (e.g. support scheme, obligation, etc.) is being considered by my Department.

The public consultation on the draft National Energy and Climate Plan closes on 22 February and I would encourage any stakeholders to make submissions to this consultation. The final National Energy and Climate Plan must be approved by Government and published by the end of this year.