Written answers

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Renewable Energy Generation

Photo of Brian StanleyBrian Stanley (Laois-Offaly, Sinn Fein)
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158. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the development of the biomass industry here; and the involvement of his Department. [46242/22]

Photo of Charlie McConalogueCharlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
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Biomass covers a wide range of materials and processes including purpose grown energy crops, forest thinning, waste material and timber by-products. My Department supports the development of the biomass sector by providing a range of supports for the growing of biomass supply and wood mobilisation.

The Afforestation Scheme 2014-2020 provides financial support to encourage the planting of trees on land and in turn supports the provision of biomass for energy production. The Woodland Improvement Scheme provides financial support to forest owners to encourage the generation of woody biomass by supporting the thinning of broad-leaved forests, including supports for continuous cover forestry.

The Forest Road Scheme also provides grants to help cover the cost of building forest roads and facilitates land owners mobilising forest biomass to markets.

The current forestry programme has encouraged a significant number of land owners to plant forests and Ireland now has over 23,500 different forest owners, all of whom are now invested in the future of our forest industry. As a result of increased private forest ownership, the national forest estate is set to become an increasing source of wood over the next 20 years. The annual potential supply of wood fibre for energy in Ireland is predicted to increase from 0.89 million cubic metres in 2021 to over 2 million cubic metres between 2031 and 2035.

An estimated total of just under 35 million cubic metres of wood fibre will be available out to the year 2040. As a result, forests and forest biomass will play an increasingly important role in both adaptation and mitigation to the impacts of climate change in the years ahead. A new Forestry Programme will launch in 2023 focusing on the importance of forests for climate change, including wood biomass for energy.

My Department also provides financial assistance to the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance Scheme which is an all-island scheme established to increase consumer confidence in wood fuel products sold in Ireland. Forest owners and forestry contractors, through sustainable forest management practices, produce renewable fuels such as firewood, wood chip, wood pellets, and wood briquettes. These fuels are certified to ISO and EU standards through the scheme. As the Wood Fuel Quality Assurance Scheme continues to grow, members will provide consumers with a greater degree of confidence in providing quality certified wood fuel products available in Ireland.

My Department ensures that harvested areas are managed sustainably, and environmental requirements apply. Harvested products such as wood fuels and solid biomass provide low cost, continuous, high temperature heat at small, medium and large scales. The production of such indigenous biomass has a crucial role to play in helping Ireland meet renewable energy targets through fossil fuel substitution to generate heat and electricity.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 acknowledges the need for the solid biomass resource capacity to double in the next decade, and the need to support the mobilisation of timber for utilisation in the processing and biomass sector. DAFM will continue to encourage policies, steps and measures to increase the use of wood and wood products in climate change mitigation and adaptation.


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