In­vest­ing in green power ‘can cre­ate 120,000 new jobs’

Irish Independent - Farming - - Front Page -

HUGE op­por­tu­ni­ties in bioen­ergy are be­ing ham­pered by bad gov­ern­ment the Tea­gasc Na­tional Bioen­ergy Con­fer­ence was told last week.

Speaker af­ter speaker at the gather­ing in Tul­lam­ore blamed poor pol­icy mak­ing, dis­jointed Gov­ern­ment think­ing and frag­mented de­part­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity for crip­pling the de­vel­op­ment of the sec­tor and pre­vent­ing it from play­ing a key role in the fight against cli­mate change, ad­dress­ing the en­ergy needs and re­spond­ing to the jobs cri­sis.

Chair­ing one of the ear­lier ses­sions of the con­fer­ence, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and broad­caster Dun­can Ste­wart, told the au­di­ence that Ire­land spends € 6.5bn a year on im­ported fos­sil fu­els, oil gas and coal.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search Mr Ste­wart has un­der­taken for a new TV se­ries, if Ire­land were to rein­vest those bil­lions into al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources it could lead to the cre­ation of 120,000 jobs.

“ This is not a ball-park the­ory,” ex­plained Mr Ste­wart. “In the TV pro­gramme we will show sec­tor-by-sec­tor where this can be done.”

Tom Bru­ton, of the Ir­ish Bioen­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion, said there were 26 bioen­ergy projects rep­re­sent­ing an in­vest­ment of €200m with the poten- tial to cre­ate 250 full-time jobs wait­ing for the go-ahead to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity from biomass.

How­ever, the fail­ure of the Gov­ern­ment to con­vince the EU com­mis­sion that a 2pc biomass tar­iff on elec­tric­ity is not state aid has left the whole biomass in­dus­try in limbo.

This tar­iff would fa­cil­i­tate a Pub­lic Ser­vice Obli­ga­tion (PSO) to de­liver elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by biomass and is the core el­e­ment of a scheme known as the Re­new­able En­ergy Feed in Tar­iff (RE­FIT III) scheme. Ap­pli­ca­tion of the scheme would guar­an­tee a mar­ket for the bioen­ergy crops be­ing grown by farm­ers, which in turn would en­cour­age banks and lend­ing agen­cies to give credit to op­er­a­tors in the biomass/bioen­ergy sec­tor.

How­ever, the scheme is the sub­ject of pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Dublin and Brus­sels

The Gov­ern­ment's per­for­mance in re­la­tion to pro­gress­ing this RE­FIT scheme at EU level was strongly crit­i­cised.

In­deed, the fail­ure of Min­is­ter of En­ergy, Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Pat Rab­bitte, to fea­ture at the con­fer­ence was a sub­ject of much ad­verse com­ment.

Alan Fox, of HDS En­ergy, Kells, told the meet­ing his plans to build a €4.5m, 15MW elec­tric- ity gen­er­a­tion plant was go­ing nowhere with­out RE­FIT. He was not at all happy that Mr Rab­bitte failed to at­tend the con­fer­ence and ex­plain the de­lays in de­liv­er­ing RE­FIT.

“I want to tell the min­is­ter that this Fox is on the tail of that Rab­bitte,” he said.

For­mer pres­i­dent of the Ul­ster Farm­ers Union and en­ergy en­tre­pre­neur John Gilliland also at­tacked the fail­ure of pub­lic pol­icy with re­gard to the re­new­able en­ergy sec­tor and the ab­sence of joined-up think­ing.

He claimed that even if en­ergy gen­er­a­tion projects got through all the tech­no­log­i­cal and fund­ing hoops, they could come a crop­per with the plan­ning authorities.

“It is one thing to cre­ate a pol­icy, it is an­other thing to im­ple­ment it. If we don't have a cross-agency, col­lec­tive ap­proach to re­new­able en­ergy that in­cludes proac­tive pub­lic pro­cure­ment pol­icy, and com­mu­nity buy-in, we are go­ing nowhere. For in­stance, with its huge an­i­mal pop­u­la­tion, Ire­land is an ideal lo­ca­tion for en­ergy driven by anaer­o­bic di­ges­tion (AD), yet prob­lems with plan­ning per­mis­sion are go­ing to kill it,” Mr Gilliland said.

“If we don't have joined-up think­ing then, as an in­no­va­tor, I'm pack­ing my bags and ac­cept­ing that I have wasted the last 20 years of my life.”

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