Opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and boost farm incomes
Opportunities for farmers in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and biogas will be outlined at the Energy and Rural Business show Ireland, in Kilkenny on 23 and 24 October. Expert speakers and businesses will showcase practical ways that farmers can make additional income and benefit the environment by supplying medium to large scale AD plants or commissioning their own facilities.
PJ McCarthy, chairman of the Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) and Seán Finan CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), are among the speakers who will outline plans to deploy up to 25 medium to large scale biogas plants by 2030.
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“Farmers have an opportunity to diversify income, improve soil conditioning on their farms, reduce carbon emissions and boost biodiversity by getting involved in the AD and biogas sector,” says PJ McCarthy, RGFI chairman.
“The RGFI focus is to develop an indigenous, sustainable and scalable renewable gas industry in Ireland. We are advocating at national and EU level for appropriate market conditions to meet our objective – which is to ensure that by 2030 Ireland meets 20% of all its energy needs from renewable gas, biomethane and bioLPG.
According to Mr McCarthy, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms see AD as a means of achieving the decarbonisation of farming and to improve water, air and soil quality as well as biodiversity. “AD has been widely adopted in Europe. There are 600 AD plants in the UK and nearly 9000 in Germany, which are typically operated by farmers and utilise rotation, catch crops and additional crops like grass, maize, beet, and manure into a green gas constituting of roughly 50% methane and 50% CO2 .
“While biomethane is not yet supported by Irish Government policy, Ireland is considered the EU member state with potential to have the highest biogas production in Europe. RGFI is committed to achieving Government support for a scalable biomethane economy in Ireland,” says Mr McCarthy.
Among the real opportunities for farmers the RGFI Chairman outlines are :
- A scalable AD sector will reduce GHG emissions associated with farming and contribute significantly to decarbonizing agriculture and meeting our carbon reduction target of 30% by 2030.
- AD can provide additional income to farmers by providing an alternative outlet for grass and farm residues, complimenting existing farm practices.
- It closes the loop on the previously linear processes around nutrient recycling challenges in a sustainable and circular manner – offering improved soil conditions from the use of biofertiliser
Also presenting at the show, Seán Finan, CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), will outline the joint IrBEA & Cré policy proposals for a biogas support scheme “mobilising the Irish biogas industry with policy and action” to develop the Irish Biogas Industry on a phased basis up to 2030.
“IrBEA believes that an initial 65MW phase can be achieved by 25 medium to large scale biogas plants which are strategically located across the country and close to the gas grid. The initial phase would deliver 400 jobs and abate 500,000 tonnes of CO2 with a biogas support scheme costing €40 million. Biomethane will assist in addressing national renewable energy targets in electricity, heat and transport. Subsequent phases can bring us towards achieving the 1.6 Twh (200MW) target,” says Mr Finan.
“The biogas plants will bring diversification opportunities to farmers. The main role of farmers will be the feedstock supply for biogas plants. Farmers would be paid for grass and also supply slurry. Farmers would also benefit from the digestate produced by the process of anaerobic digestion which would be returned to their farms for land spreading. This would be applied as a biofertiliser and contribute to the agricultural circular and bioeconomy”.
Seán Finan explains that government support is crucial and essential to implement the plans. “The difference in the retail price of fossil gas and the increased cost of biogas production will have to be bridged through a biogas support scheme. This government support required will vary from 6 to 9 cent per kwh depending on the scale of the plant and the feedstock used. With the recent publication of the climate action plan, we hope that we are pushing at an open door and that the government will work with us in developing a support package which brings our proposals to fruition. We believe that the biogas support could come from either a Whole of government fund or a Public Service Obligation (PSO) on fossil gas.”
Finan concluded “For farmers looking at small scale on farm biogas where a feed stock and energy demand is available on the farm, capital support is available through our Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine funded Small Biogas Demonstration European Innovation Project. As the lead partner, IrBEA has a capital grant to distribute for up to 3 farmers to develop self-contained AD plants on farms, meaning they use their own feedstocks satisfying their own energy demand and using their own digestate.”
Both Seán Finan and PJ McCarthy will be speaking at the Energy and Rural Business Show Ireland this October 23 and 24. The event features more AD plant developers than any other show in the country and will include dedicated conference sessions on opportunities in AD and biogas, biomass, heat pumps, hydropower, solar, storage, energy and carbon management and a debate on agriculture’s role in the development of the renewable energy and low carbon sectors. It will also feature ‘how-to’ farm diversification workshops and an exhibition, featuring cutting edge products and initiatives proving expert guidance.