Parliamentary Question No. 23

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the communications his Department had with the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources with regard to Bio Digesters; if he has expressed with that Department the need to increase the tariffs on electricity generated by Bio Digesters; his views that this would have advantages for the agricultural sector as a result of the increase in the dairy herd; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Anthony Lawlor.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 25th November, 2015.

Ref No: 41243/15 Lottery: 19 Proof: 19


The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine : (Simon Coveney)

My Department recognises the need to encourage the utilisation of agricultural waste as an alternative source of energy. In collaboration with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Environmental Protection Agency, we have sought to encourage the use of animal by-products as “valuable by-products not waste”.
Electricity and heat produced from anaerobic digestion (AD) are supported under the REFIT 3 scheme, and the issue of electricity tariffs is a matter, in the first instance, for my colleague the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The current rates of tariff for AD technologies available under the scheme were calculated following analysis by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources along with other relevant Departments and agencies, including my own. Since the introduction of the scheme in 2012, I understand there have been a number of applications from AD plants for support.
I recognise the role that a resource-efficient agriculture sector can play in contributing to renewable energy targets, especially where it can improve its competitiveness and promote job creation. In 2006, my Department launched a Pilot Waste Processing Facilities Scheme with funding of €4 million in order to provide grant-aid for the installation of anaerobic digesters on ten Irish farms.  To date, two applicants have been paid under the Scheme and an extension to the end of 2016 has been given to another applicant to finalise an on-farm project.
As a large ruminant livestock producer, it is notable that methane contributes a significant portion of Ireland’s agriculture greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While it is possible to produce and utilise methane through AD of stored manure, analysis to date would suggest that costs are a significant factor.
In early 2015, the Bioenergy Steering Group was formed by DCENR with the purpose of furthering the vision set out in the Draft Bioenergy Plan. Four working groups were established, aiming to develop measures on four aspects of Bioenergy, one of which is looking at electricity and heat.  Public and private sector stakeholders will contribute to each working group.  My Department continues to work closely with DCENR in assessing the potential of bioenergy from the agriculture and forestry sectors, including from AD and is actively involved in all of the four working groups. The work of these groups will be important in informing future policy developments in relation to bioenergy.