Adjournment Debate. - Biomass Electricity Generation.

I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this matter which relates to the production of electricity for the national grid from farm waste. It is done effectively and profitably in England where poultry producers are even paid for the litter. I visited a plant which burns 300 tonnes of litter per day.

I will outline the background to the problem. In the early 1990s and using INTERREG funds, Monaghan County Council in conjunction with Teagasc had a farm waste study carried out. It identified the damage to the major water catchments of the Blackwater and the Erne and the need to recycle this waste. The waste is disposed of in various ways. It cannot be used in the growing season but it is spread on land during the winter. However, most of it was dumped into bogs and old quarries. Many of the growers depended on contractors to clean out the houses. In one area one would collect 2,000 tonnes of compost per week.

Two weeks ago one of the major contractors got notice from Monaghan County Council that he could no longer use the landfill he had been using. I am most concerned about one woman who borrowed £70,000 to build three plastic tunnels and ancillary buildings. The contractor who had taken the waste compost will no longer be able to do so. Monaghan County Council do not have any ground on which to dump it. This is what confronts the large numbers of people who had depended on the contractor to clean those houses.

I identified this problem years ago. I have contacted the Department of the Environment, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. However, each of the Departments stands alone and there is no co-operation between them to deal with this problem.

Last year there was a competition for generating electricity from waste. We were very disappointed when the Monaghan proposal was not included. When the results of the competition became known none of the 100 megawatts came under the heading of biomass, but under headings relating to wind farms, dumps and the combined energy and power from breweries. There is another competition this year. A sum of £7.5 million from the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme will be provided for a project to be selected in October. If the county is not successful in having its project accepted, it will mean not alone that there will be no further development but there will be a serious curtailment of the current development.

I ask for co-operation between the Government Departments as hundreds of people are employed in picking and processing in a £50 million industry in the county which is being threatened by the fact that thousands of tonnes of waste cannot be used. All it would produce is some ash from the generating stations. Will the Minister highlight the urgency involved and the need to safeguard a useful industry? As it is, the industry must make do for another 12 months before a project could be in place.

A competitive scheme to secure an electricity generating plant of up to 30 megawatt using biomass or wastes as a fuel was launched by the Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, on 21 December 1995. A grant of up to £7.5 million has been made available for this initiative under the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme.

The expression of interest stage of the competition closed on 29 February 1996, and tender packs were issued to applicants. The deadline for formal submission of a technical application was 30 April 1996. The process of appointing an independent assessor for the competition is currently in train. In the circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment further.

Under the recently published "Renewable Energy — a Strategy for the Future", a target of a further 7 megawatt of installed electricity generating capacity using biomass or wastes as a fuel source has been set for the next three years. This installed capacity will be secured through competition, and capital grant assistance, from the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme, of £65,000 per megawatt installed, will be available.

The Dáil adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 30 May 1996.