Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions (456, 457)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

456. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department provides grant funding for anaerobic digesters; if not, his plans to introduce same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49915/19]

View answer

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

457. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his Department had a consultation with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the introduction of grant support for anaerobic digesters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49918/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 456 and 457 together.

My Department recognises the potential environmental and economic benefits of using anaerobic digestion, including climate mitigation, and renewable energy generation as well as supporting a diversification of income for farmers. Research suggests that the biogas produced from AD could potentially play a significant role in the heat and transport sectors.

The role indigenous sources of renewable energy will play in future will become more important as we seek to reduce our reliance on imported fuels and in meeting our challenging renewable energy targets into the future and decarbonising our energy systems by 2050.

The Anaerobic Digestion industry in Ireland is still at an early stage of development when compared to the more established industry in mainland Europe. Models for AD plants in Ireland are varied and are typically stand alone on-farm plants which rely on own-sourced manure from farming activity in addition to other feedstocks such as foodwaste to supply a continued raw material for power generation.

There are many challenges, both economic and operational, to the establishment of a viable Anaerobic Digestion industry in Ireland. The cost efficiency of this technology remains challenging due to the low energy content of farm manure and the seasonality of grass/slurry supply under Irish farming conditions.

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) aims to bridge this economic gap and will support farms and businesses to adopt renewable heating systems, including biogas heating systems. The SSRH has been developed to financially support the adoption of renewable heating systems by agricultural, commercial, industrial, district heating operators and other non-domestic heat users not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the SSRH for the period of up to 2027.

In June of this year, my colleague Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, opened the second phase of the SSRH. Details of this scheme including the tariffs that apply are available on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland's website at the following link: https://www.seai.ie/sustainable-solutions/support-scheme-renewable-/.

While there are currently no grants available for the building of anaerobic digestors, Teagasc is currently developing a feasibility study on the availability of sustainable feedstocks in Ireland which are essential for a viable industry. This report will help to inform the types of support necessary for the future development of the anaerobic digestion industry in Ireland.

Despite these challenges, my Department is committed to working with the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, which is the lead Department in this area, to ensure that the supply of domestic fuels available in the forest and agriculture sectors are mobilised to support energy generation from a range of bioenergy technologies.