2021 has seen Ireland introduce a Climate Action Bill (Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021) to support its transition to Net Zero by no later than 2050.
The Bill provides for the first time:
- A legally binding framework;
- Clear targets and commitments, with carbon budgeting, set in law;
- Structures and processes to achieve national, EU and international climate goals and obligations.
It strengthens the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), and puts renewed emphasis on using relevant scientific advice and drawing on international best practice. The former CCAC had advised Government to plan for the development of zero-carbon fuels, including biomethane and green hydrogen and it is hoped that the new CCAC will support the vision for AD biomethane.
Of some concern is that reference to soil carbon sequestration (central to the integrated approach to agri-biomethane and bio-fertiliser production) has been removed from the latest version of the Bill. This removal is being challenged by those who view it as contrary to the Paris Agreement and who want farmers to be credited for the carbon they are sequestering on their land.
The Climate Action Bill stipulates a 51% reduction in Ireland’s carbon footprint by the end of the decade and Ireland will be legally bound to reduce its emissions (carbon footprint) by 7 % per year to hit its new 2030 target.
However, this target is extremely ambitious and it is not yet clear how it will be achieved. It brings home the hard decarbonisation challenges facing many businesses in terms of meeting legal requirements and global competitiveness.
Ireland’s agri-food and beverages sector, in the form of a collaboration of some leading companies, has reached the conclusion that farm based AD biomethane and bio-fertiliser production using carbon farming practices, is the only commercially and technically viable way for it to decarbonise its thermal processes
This viewpoint has been informed by a series of KPMG Reports, providing independent analysis of scientific based targets, economic and financial data. Recent work has determined that, with appropriate Government policy support, AD biomethane and associated bio-fertiliser produced utilising agri-based feedstock, has the potential to replace natural gas in a way that is technically and commercially viable, with tremendous environmental benefits in terms of reducing carbon emissions (c 700kt CO2 pa), capturing carbon in soil, and improving biodiversity, air and water quality (reducing nitrate run-off). And as the price of carbon continues to rise the business case can only strengthen.
This approach would, at the same time, provide farmers with a reliable income stream, support the circular, rural economy and the commercial sustainability and competitiveness of the Irish food and drinks industry. It is projected to create 3,000 sustainable jobs across rural Ireland.
It aligns with the Paris Agreement, EU Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy, and national agricultural and climate action strategies, and will be underpinned by an AD Charter to ensure delivery of environmental commitments.
Ireland is particularly suited to farm based AD biomethane and bio-fertiliser production because 80% of its land is pasturelands, with a strong dairy industry and ready availability of silage and slurry feedstock. Recent research from the government agricultural research agency, Teagasc, and Devenish Nutrition, is particularly encouraging. It shows how a move to mixed species pastures can further the energy value and environmental benefits of the feedstock, with only 2% of land required for sustainable feedstock supply and 735k Ha of permanent pasturelands available for use to grow sustainable agri feedstock to supply an indigenous and sustainable AD biomethane industry.
The Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) and industry members are currently liaising with government departments, political parties and farming representatives, to gather momentum for change.
The current ask of Government is:
- Declared policy support for AD biomethane;
- Implementation of Article 23 RED II in 2021/2022, with a biomethane target of 11% by 2030;
- Support with match capital funding of €24m for a pilot AD scheme 2021-2023 and capital funding to support full roll out to 2030;
- Support industry in consultation on the optimum structure for a national carbon farming initiative.
The past month has also seen a united call from energy associations, for a target of 40% renewable heat by 2030 in Ireland, primarily from bioenergy, heat pumps, renewable gas and district heating Through Renewable Energy Ireland they have published 40by30, a roadmap to reduce our CO2 emissions by 7% annually, in line with the Climate Action Bill.
The Report includes figures from 2018 showing that thermal energy use accounted for 40% of all energy used and circa 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. €3 billion was spent that year on heating – one third of the national heat demand is in industry, two thirds in buildings.
RGFI was pleased to contribute to this wider partnership and is already pursuing some of the measures and policy recommendations identified, such as the early implementation of Article 23 REDII .
RGFI is advocating and supporting consumer and sector led initiatives to decarbonise industrial heat demand requirements, with an independent business case for AD biomethane production, which also benefits the environment and rural economy.
This month (June) RGFI welcomed over 30 delegates to the first Irish Regatrace workshop, co-hosted by Gas Networks Ireland.
Delegates learned that Ireland is, in fact, a leader within the EU, in that it already has a Green Gas Certification Scheme and Renewable Gas Registry, operated by Gas Networks Ireland (GNI). Its blueprint was developed in 2018 by the German agencies DENA and DBFZ, co-ordinated by the International Energy Research Centre and supported by the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Research, University College Cork, GNI and RGFI.
The Scheme will certify biomethane produced in Ireland, complies with the sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive II, and is in line with best practice, carbon accounting principles. It provides confidence and assurances to gas consumers, in validating and verifying, in a fully accountable and transparent manner, that biomethane is sustainably produced.
Gas Networks Ireland now operate the Scheme and they are also responsible for Ireland’s gas pipeline network – one of the most modern in Europe.
So much is in place to develop Ireland’s biomethane industry – it is now down to the Irish Government to act on the scientific evidence, commercial information and consumer advice that has been presented to it to realise the shared vision to decarbonise.
Authenticity on behalf of Renewable Gas Forum Ireland, www.renewablegasforum.com