I propose to take Questions Nos. 40, 98 and 99 together.
In December 2003, my Department, in association with Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, set up a bioenergy strategy group, BSG. The primary objective of the group is to consider the policy options and support mechanisms available to Government to stimulate increased use of biomass for energy conversion and to make specific recommendations for action to increase the penetration of biomass energy in Ireland.
Biomass can be subdivided into waste categories and purpose grown energy crops, including short rotation forestry and miscanthus grass. The use of biomass as fuel for generation of both electricity and heat are within the remit of the BSG. The BSG is holding a series of meetings each exploring a different aspect of the exploitation of biomass energy, one aspect of which is the potential use of wood pellet technology.
Input to the group is from a wide range of interested parties, including those in the wood processing industry, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture and Food. The BSG will produce a strategy report for publication. It will contain a road map for the development of biomass energy with the identification of staged, achievable targets and recommendations for future action. It is expected that this report will be available at the end of this year and will link in with the Department's renewables consultation process and newly formed renewables development group.
Ireland has an excellent growing climate and an ongoing supply of raw material for wood fuel. Wood residues are already being used to produce heat for sawmills across the country and the wood energy market is poised for growth, with a number of commercial start-ups and a supply chain emerging. Wood residues can be broken down into four categories: pulpwood residues; sawmill residues; forest residues; and recycled wood. Responsibility for commercial development would be a day-to-day decision for the commercial companies involved.
Sustainable Energy Ireland has commissioned a report to investigate the potential for co-firing biomass in peat and coal powered stations. In this case, biomass includes, for example, wood, straw, tallow, meat and bonemeal. This study will be completed in May and preliminary findings indicate that there is good potential for the co-firing of biomass at power stations. I will forward details of the study to the Deputies when it is published later this month.
SEI has also published two studies entitled, A Resource Study on Recovered Vegetable Oil and Animal Fats and An Assessment of the Renewable Energy Resource Potential of Dry Agricultural Residues in Ireland. I will forward these to the Deputies for information.