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General Benefits of Renewable Gas

It treats organic, bio-degradable materials, by-products, residues and wastes that would otherwise produce harmful methane emissions, and recycles them into biomethane, bio-fertiliser, organic soil improvers and biochemicals.

Agriculture currently accounts for 35% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mainly from farm practices and land management. The manufacturing and processing sectors, dominated by the food and drink industries, contribute a further 13%, and these industries largely depend on gas for thermal energy demand.

A target of 12% of gas as biomethane can save 2.6Mt (million tonnes) of CO2 per annum on energy consumption. Using bio-fertilisers could reduce agriculture emissions by 14Mt of CO2 per annum.

Using anaerobic digestion (AD) to produce biomethane will enable the production of organic soil improvers and soil carbon sequestration, in line with the EU Farm to Fork strategy targets to reduce chemical fertilisers by 50%, increase organic farming land to 25%, and provide carbon footprint labelling.

This reduction in GHG emissions in turn will reduce fines for missing EU climate targets and protect our international renown as an exporter of high-quality, sustainably produced food and drink.

Digestate, an organic soil improver, regenerates and enhances soil quality while decreasing reliance on pesticides. It helps to replenish carbon in soil (sequestration), saving an additional 14 Mt CO2 per annum. It reduces the use of artificial fertilisers, reducing the risks associated with run-off, and so improves water quality.

Furthermore, in avoiding spreading of raw slurry, air quality is improved, through the reduction of ammonia. The combined effect is soil regeneration, enhancing the ability of grass and tillage lands to absorb carbon into the soil.

Ireland Inc. can benefit from the opportunities afforded by the Grassland Soil Carbon Sequestration programme.

The European Green Deal is an integral part of the EU Commission’s strategy to deliver decarbonisation targets agreed internationally as part of the Paris Agreement. Renewable gas can help to deliver 9 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and a number of priorities announced in President von der Leyen’s political guidelines for achieving Net Zero by 2050, such as the EU Farm to Fork Strategy.

Renewable gas biomethane provides the lowest cost, least disruptive option to decarbonise domestic, commercial and industrial heat demand. It is a viable and economical alternative to having to deep retrofit properties already using natural gas. By switching to renewable gas, agriculture, food and drinks industries could close the circle in terms of carbon neutrality and protect our sustainable food producer credentials.

Large industrial heat users, such as the food processing, drinks and bio-pharma sectors, compete on a global market. The drivers for transformation are global trade and consumers’ demands for sustainably produced food and drinks. Access to a secure, competitive, indigenous, biomethane supply will inform these industries’ strategic decisions to continue with current investment, or expand their operations, in Ireland.

Biomethane from agricultural feed-stocks, gives a net gain to the economy with a benefit cost ratio of 1.26 through to 2050. See An Integrated Business Case for Biomethane in Ireland, RGFI / KPMG, October 2019.

Approximately 3,000 jobs will be created and sustained. This includes 7-10 long term jobs for each commercial AD plant

Opportunities include: developing and operating AD plants; producing feedstocks, bio-fertiliser, organic soil improvers and biomethane; skilled operation and maintenance work in servicing plants; and transporting materials and products.

Farmers will have access to additional income from recycling agricultural wastes, diversifying into more sustainable, long-term income streams, such as supplying excess grass, and involvement in ownership and operation of AD plants for energy production and complementary, non-energy benefits.

Industry leaders are pursuing an indigenous, biomethane industry and related initiatives. They are proactively working with RGFI and with government, to influence decisions and policy, to develop the sector.

Major companies such as Danone, Diageo, Nestle Wyeth, Dairygold Co-operative, Glanbia Ireland, Lakeland Dairies, Tipperary Co-op, Dairygold Co-operative, and Pernod Ricard are fully behind the proposals.

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) intends to invest in infrastructure for renewable gas collection logistics and central grid injection facilities.

Ireland is a net energy importer. About 85% of our energy currently comes from outside the state at a cost of approximately €5.7 billion per annum and we cannot control this supply.

Currently about 50% of Ireland’s natural gas is imported and this figure is expected to rise over coming years as the Corrib gas field winds down production. The government’s decision to not support liquefied natural gas projects in Ireland leaves a significant role for renewable gas biomethane to fill the void and ensure a secure and indigenous supply of energy for Ireland into the future.

Gas Networks Ireland has developed a world class gas infrastructure in Ireland consisting of over 14,172km of gas pipelines. It has been constructed and extended to the highest international safety standards, in line with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities policies. Agri-led anaerobic digesters will also be long-term assets of nationally important infrastructure.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has approved €700 million of financing for agriculture and the bio-economy. The initiative aims to unlock around €1.6 billion of investment in these sectors, by supporting private companies operating throughout the value chains of production and processing of food, bio-based materials, and bioenergy.

The renewable gas industry is self-sustaining once capital costs are addressed.

The anaerobic digestion technology is mature, tried and tested. AD is a complementary technology adding to Ireland’s strengths in agriculture, food, drinks and bio-pharma sectors, in manufacturing and processing.

Benefits of Renewable Gas for Farmers

Economic benefits, as well as environmental sustainability, are crucial to the interests of all Irish farmers.

The KPMG report on the business case for biomethane production in Ireland confirms additional income opportunities from a) feedstock sales, b) operator’s fee, c) leasing income, as well as equity / ownership opportunities. The proposals are aligned with the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy to promote organic farm practices and reduce the carbon footprint of food production.

Increase revenue and reduce costs for farmers

  • New, additional income from supplying under contract, agricultural based feedstocks, organic materials and by-products, with an average net profit pa of €360 per ha per annum.
  • Plant equity/ownership opportunities.
  • Potential plant operator’s fee c€70k per annum.
  • Rotation or sequential cropping (about 60% more crops per year) will not compromise the existing production of food for animal feed. This circumvents the fuel vs food dilemma.
  • Opportunity to use unprofitable lands.
  • Sustainable slurry management and disposal.
  • Use digestate to reduce fertiliser costs – competitive home-produced fertiliser that can replace 7.7 million tonnes of imported chemical fertiliser per annum.
  • Improved air and water quality.
  • Potential to lease lands to anaerobic digestion (AD) developers.

The 12% annual biomethane target by 2030 is realistic – and reflects plentiful feedstock availability.

Contracts to supply feedstock can provide certainty of demand for many farmers – with capacity to produce more grass.

A robust renewable gas industry will:

  • satisfy both the animal feed requirement and the new biomethane market;
  • utilise 4.8m tonnes of slurry and 5.8m tonnes of additional grass silage pa.

To deliver the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy, Ireland will have to reform current policies for energy and agriculture across the economy – including in food and agriculture. Within this, anaerobic digestion producing biomethane is fundamental to delivering robust, measurable results that are verified and validated by accredited bodies and recognised by European and global authorities.

A scalable, agri-based biomethane industry has been emphasised by the EU Commission as being a central component in a roadmap to the Green Deal. McKinsey & Co., consultants to the Irish government, have renewable gas in the top 25 recommendations for reducing emissions in agriculture, at €85 per tonne of CO2 abated.

Our grass-based agriculture is the optimal model for the roll-out of an Irish renewable gas industry.
Ireland only requires a 5% increase in grass production to support the 12% renewable gas vision, which will not impact on livestock production. The Teagasc Grassland 10 programme indicates this is easily achievable.

Challenged farming incomes, falling beef prices and the ongoing need to decarbonise agriculture, places innovative solutions and technology in grassland management high on the agricultural agenda.

Irish farmers can benefit from:

  • Better slurry management and chemical fertiliser displacement.
  • Soil carbon sequestration and soil regeneration, by using organic soil improvers from the digestate.
  • Biomethane production being independently validated and having verified auditing procedures, through accredited bodies recognised by EU and global authorities, using the Green Gas Certification Scheme.

3000 + new jobs by 2030 in a long term, indigenous renewable gas industry for rural Ireland. This includes 7-10 long term jobs for each commercial AD plant.

12% renewable gas will demand 4.8m tonnes of slurry and 5.8m tonnes of grass silage per annum.

Ireland has in excess of 100Mt slurry annually. Of this, c 40Mt is captured and stored requiring management. Just 12% of this would meet our 2030 ambitions for an at scale industry in Ireland.

The digestate by-product will save a further 1.3Mt CO2 (minimum) in agriculture. It lowers the need for emission intense chemical fertilisers and increases soil organic carbon.

Well managed soil with digestate input reduces soil erosion and nutrient leaching.

The Green Gas Certification Scheme is a means of measuring and verifying these benefits.

Decarbonising Ireland’s agriculture supply chain further supports the global marketing of Irish agricultural produce.

Benefits of Renewable Gas for Business

Renewable gas is the fuel of choice for industry and large energy users to decarbonise heat demand because it is:

  • versatile and easily applied directly to end use in electricity, heating, and transport;
  • on-demand;
  • least disruptive for users currently reliant on natural gas;
  • the lowest cost option for many hard-to-decarbonise areas, such as industrial heat.

This will be even more important in the coming decades as energy prices are projected to increase and fossil fuel supplies will be even more volatile due to geo-political uncertainty.

The European Green Deal strategy, and the Farm to Fork and Industrial Waste initiatives, will require reform of current policy and supports for biomethane to secure current and future investment by industry in Ireland.

Transport costs can be game-changing for business. Using biomethane as a transport fuel reduces vulnerability to rising petrol and diesel prices. It is a cleaner fuel and can almost eliminate nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter emissions.

The switch to AD produced biomethane will reduce all greenhouse gas emissions – delivering environmental, climate action and mandatory carbon neutral targets – a saving of 2.6m tonnes of CO2 pa in energy consumption.

Industrial consumers of renewable gas can avail of the Green Gas Certification Scheme to off-set against carbon credits / carbon tax. It delivers on their environmental, climate action and mandatory carbon neutral targets as the Scheme is validated and verified by accredited bodies recognised by European and global authorities.

Electricity generated from the grid at present emits on average 331g of CO2 for each kWh. From an AD biomethane plant that can be reduced to 11g – over 30 times cleaner.

Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) supports anaerobic digestion to produce biomethane and forecasts 9.8TWh by 2050 from agriculture (11.6 TWh in total), on the basis that it is brought up to natural gas standard at the AD site. GNI intends to support the industry by investing in the renewable gas collection logistics and central grid Injection facilities.

Green credentials help sustain competitiveness for the processing and manufacturing sectors and goods being sold on the global markets. Mandatory carbon labelling of food, beverages and bio pharma products is to be introduced under the European Green Deal Farm to Fork strategy.

An indigenous biomethane industry will strengthen national energy security of supply and storage.

Supports the local rural economy through new job creation – 3,000 by 2030.

Supports farmers to use unproductive land, capture carbon, reduce nitrous oxide, improve soil regeneration and soil nutrition. All the while improving air and water quality.

  • Build or operate an AD plant.
  • Use renewable gas to valorise by-products and organic materials.
  • Get involved in the many services, products and technologies required for this sector.

In April 2020 the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved €700 million of financing for agriculture and the bio-economy. The initiative aims to unlock around €1.6 billion of investment by supporting private companies operating throughout the value chains of production and processing of food, bio-based materials, and bioenergy.

Renewable gas is a proven, mature technology with the initial AD plant roll-out expected to be in line with the roll out achieved in Northern Ireland in a 5 year period.

Benefits of Renewable Gas for Consumers

Consumers will enjoy all of the General Benefits as well as: General benefits

Fossil fuel prices are volatile and expected to rise steeply over the coming decade. Renewable gas is a cost-effective alternative to fossil gas.

If you are already using natural gas, there is no additional cost to switch to biomethane.

For the 670,000 homes and 29,000 commercial consumers on the gas network, switching to use biomethane would be seamless.

An indigenous, renewable gas industry benefits your community environmentally and economically.

Benefits of Renewable Gas for Policy Makers

An indigenous, renewable gas industry will be an enabler for both the government’s Climate Action Plan and the European Green Deal, including playing a fundamental role in the Farm to Fork Strategy and sustainable industry initiatives

All authorities are obliged to develop Climate Change Adaptation Strategies as a collaborative response to the impact that climate change is having, and will continue to have, on their citizens.

Significantly contributes to the climate change National Mitigation Plan.

Renewable gas represents an opportunity for authorities to enable the transition towards 2030 and 2050, to a low carbon, circular economy in Ireland, supported by industry. It can improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and industry. There are also water quality benefits to be accrued from the bio-fertiliser produced.

A renewable gas industry has the potential to address agriculture, food and organic material disposal, creating a circular economy within local authority regions across Ireland.

The renewable gas industry will stimulate the rural economy with 3,000 + new jobs and supports existing companies across Ireland who see AD biomethane as vital to their future e.g. link to industry.

Supports existing and new company investments that will provide related services and products for this new sector.

Companies required to meet mandatory sustainability and competitiveness targets, especially those that depend on gas for thermal demand, will make investment decisions based on government support for renewable gas.

Cutting edge technology and learning opportunities for municipal waste disposal.

RGFI is providing knowledge transfer and clear information on biomethane as a green, renewable energy and encouraging public support for related initiatives

The Climate Action Plan published in June 2019 has a commitment to adopt a whole of government approach to reviewing the potential of anaerobic digestion to supply biomethane. However, the Irish government needs to declare policy support for AD biomethane as a key enabler to deliver and achieve targets set out in the EU Green Deal Farm to Fork Strategy.

The KPMG Business Case for Biomethane in Ireland aligns with the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Industrial waste initiatives and many of the Irish government’s policy objectives, including national and FDI decarbonisation targets, the government’s Action Plan for Rural Development, the Nitrates Action Plan and the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine’s Code of Good Agricultural Practice, and the National Mitigation Plan.

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