I am aware that considerable scientific research is being undertaken at Irish universities and institutes and by industry into new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, much of which is exchequer funded. Specifically in the areas the deputy is enquiring about, I recently opened a Biomethane Stakeholders Group at which the research team from University College Cork presented. The stakeholder group is part of on-going stakeholder consultation on the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat which aims to meet our European Targets for renewable heat. It is intended that biomethane injection into the gas grid will form part of the next phase of the support scheme.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) SEAI 2018 Research, Development & Demonstration Funding Programme, which is fully funded by my department, includes research in the area of bioenergy and biomethane. During 2017, this SEAI Programme funded projects in the broad bioenergy/bioemethane/biofuel areas, including research with the following organisations: the University of Limerick; the Technology Centre for Biobased Resources; the Irish Bioenenergy Association; Premier Green Energy; Dundalk Institute of Technology; Dowmann Ltd.; BMS Technologies; and the Cré Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland.
Last year SEAI published the Assessment of Cost and Benefits of Biogas and Biomethane in Ireland . This study looked at the contribution that biogas and biomethane could make to renewable energy production, through electricity and heat generation and the replacement of natural gas.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the SEAI, both of whom are funded by my department, provide funding to academic researchers and industry in the areas of environmental protection (EPA) and sustainable energy (SEAI).
SEAI funds Ireland’s participation in the International Energy Agency Bioenergy Task 37 - Energy from Biogas. Task 37 is an international working group which covers the anaerobic digestion (AD) of biomass feedstocks including agricultural residues, energy crops, organic-rich waste waters, and domestic and industrial organic wastes. Anaerobic digestion is a process to treat biodegradable waste to reduce landfill emissions and is also a source of renewable energy.
I am aware of recent developments in the possibilities for hydrogen to play a role in our energy systems and will be launching a position paper on this subject at NUI Galway on 20th March.
Gas Networks Ireland are managing the ‘Causeway project’, co-funded by the European Union, which represents a signification step in delivering a sustainable alternative fuel for Irish transport. The project will see the formation of a national Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refuelling network, the first renewable gas injection facility in Ireland from a biogas plant in Kildare, and the deployment of a fleet of CNG vehicles. Projects such as these will increase the penetration of alternative lower carbon fuels in Ireland and help to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutants from traditional transport fuels such as diesel.
Green CO2 recovery is an option for Biogas plants where the biogas needs to be cleaned prior to injection into the natural gas grid. Officials from my department attended the recent Green Gas Certification project which aims to provide a verifiable and sustainable certification process for green gas projects to help meet our climate and energy targets. The potential for Green CO2 from biogas plants was also raised at this forum.
It is hoped that the research being funded by the Government, aligned with the new support schemes being developed by my Department, will encourage and increase the amount of low carbon sources used in our energy mix.