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National biomethane strategy “important first step to kick start an agri-feedstock based biomethane industry”

Renewable Gas Forum Ireland welcomes the publication of the National Biomethane Strategy as  an important first step towards meeting Ireland’s biomethane target of 5.7 TWh by 2030.   RGFI CEO, PJ McCarthy, said the announcement of an initial €40m in capital funding to 2025 and a commitment to introduce a policy enabler placing an obligation on energy providers to buy the renewable gas, will provide much needed certainty for RGFI members.
In addition Mr McCarthy welcomed the inclusion of other non-financial supports, as proposed by RGFI, such as non-contestable gas grid connections, the AD Charter to guide sustainability, as well as the establishment of a communications strategy and hub to socialise the socio economic benefits of biomethane and biorefinery potential.
RGFI has been advocating for matching capital funding, a Renewable Heat Obligation scheme and  clear guidelines on the development of an agri-feedstock-based AD biomethane industry since 2014. It commissioned the first economic assessment of biomethane in Ireland, (RGFI / KPMG) in 2019 – which was acknowledged in the Government Strategy.
“The initial €40m being provided in capital grants will kick start  the development of circa 10 x 40 GWh AD plants within the next 18 months. While a modest beginning, this is a crucial first step. We look forward to working through the detail with Government on behalf of our members who range from farmers to large scale energy users.
RGFI welcomes the Government’s commitment to operate the Renewable Heat Obligation scheme from 2024 and  to provide a further Capital Funding in the 2025 Budget, saying this must be adequate to support the construction of up to 130 more median sized biomethane production units.    RGFI also welcomed the provision for a Charter to underpin the sustainability of all projects – a key factor in the RGFI submission.
“This is a phased approach to the creation of a biomethane industry in Ireland. The benefits, as acknowledged in the Strategy go beyond energy and decarbonisation.  The demand for agri based feedstocks will generate additional income streams for farmers, as well as providing on-farm sustainability and water quality benefits, and ultimately carbon farming and a bio-economy.

What is disappointing in the Strategy is that it does not provide a standardised approach to planning and licensing. Also, while the  end use of biomethane will be determined by the market, the Government has an opportunity in the next round of funding to ensure that difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, such as the indigenous food processors and farmer owned co-operatives, with high thermal needs, can compete effectively for biomethane” concluded Mr McCarthy.

Welcome for biorefinery funding.

With Ireland’s temperate climate, it is well positioned to produce high quantities of grass and forage. Accordingly, RGFI sees  “green biorefining” as a key enabling technology for agri-led biomethane expansion and sustainable development. Green biorefineries, co-located with AD plants, can process biodegradable -materials, such as grass, and silage to extract  valuable compounds,  RGFI welcomes the Government  investment of  up to €30 million in biorefinery piloting facilities over the next two to three years.

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