Details of a national support scheme for renewable heat have been announced by Denis Naughten, Minister for Climate Action and Environment. It will cost more than €1 billion over 15 years.
Businesses that generate commercially usable heat from renewable energy sources will be eligible to receive ongoing payments under the scheme.
Budgetary safeguards have been built in to prevent any risk of an open-ended support mechanism that occurred when a controversial "cash for ash" renewable heat incentive was introduced in Northern Ireland.
The Republic’s scheme is designed to support replacement of fossil fuel heating systems with renewable energy for “large heat demand non-domestic users”. It covers commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating, public sector entities and other non-domestic businesses.
Mr Naughten said the scheme would kick-start the biomass and biogas sectors. “It will also contribute to meeting Ireland’s 2020 renewable energy and [carbon] emission reduction targets.”
Other technologies and methods of support, including biomethane grid injection, will be considered for future phases. Biomethane generation is especially suited to agriculture, major co-ops and large food and drinks companies – some of which are already accelerating deployment of the technology. Where such businesses are located near the national gas grid, its economic viability is significantly enhanced.
Mr Naughten said: “Production of biomethane from AD [anaerobic digestion] and its injection into the natural gas grid has significant potential in Ireland. In addition to being a source of renewable energy, it can also provide an outlet for farm wastes.”
P J McCarthy, chair of the Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) – an all-Ireland industry body for those in renewable gas supply – said while they were disappointed biomethane was not included, they welcomed that it is to be considered next year.
“The RGFI has been engaged with the RHI consultation process promoting the wider economic benefits of renewable gas, such as assisting in addressing environmental issues in clean air, decarbonisation in agriculture and providing renewable gas to the domestic, commercial, industry and transport.”
Pillar industries located in Ireland, such as the agri food, biopharma, beverages, medical, were engaged with the RGFI seeking solutions to stay competitive and sustainable, with an urgent need to secure supply of indigenous renewable gas to maintain their respective operations in Ireland, he said.
“We are aware of of FDI companies who are large employers currently assessing their position in Ireland, with a number already making decisions not to invest further in Ireland, due to Government energy policy and the exclusion of renewable gas,” Mr McCarthy said.