As set out in the National Development Plan, the Government intends that, by 2030, peat and coal will no longer have a role in electricity generation in Ireland. This is in line with Ireland’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and the National Policy Position which sets out a long-term vision of an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors.
It is in this context that my Department supports the progressive conversion of peat power stations to more sustainable low-carbon technologies such as biomass by 2030. The REFIT 3 scheme provides support for co-firing of biomass up to 30% of the capacity of each of the three peat power stations. The Scheme provides a transitional period to allow Bord na Mona to manage the phased move away from peat harvesting for electricity production and has the potential to stimulate the growth of a domestic biomass supply chain in Ireland.
Since 2016, Bord na Mona's Edenderry plant has used the REFIT 3 support to co-fire biomass along with peat and the company's recent annual report notes that 80% of the biomass used in the Edenderry power station in the year to end March 2018 came from domestic sources. The two ESB peat power stations are expected to begin co-firing using the REFIT 3 support for biomass scheme from the end of 2019, subject to planning permission and other consents.
Use of appropriate sustainability criteria will help to ensure that use of biomass does not have a detrimental effect on the world’s forests. EU-wide sustainability criteria are being introduced in the revised Renewable Energy Directive, which is expected to introduce provisions to ensure that energy biomass will be required to emit significantly less carbon than the fossil fuel equivalent. This Directive will exclude certain types of biomass from contributing to a member state’s renewable energy performance such as biomass from areas of high biodiversity, areas designated for nature protection purposes and areas designated for protection of rare, threatened or endangered ecosystems or species.
Furthermore, Bord na Mona’s BioEnergy division sources sustainable biomass that is used at the Edenderry power station, based on a set of sustainability principles, aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This will help to ensure that biomass used in electricity generation in Ireland is from sustainable sources.