€20m pilot for energy efficiency to combat fuel poverty

A €20 million pilot project to improve energy efficiency in the homes of people with acute health conditions is due to commence this month (March), according to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR). It also envisages the future introduction of minimum thermal efficiency standards in rented accommodation. The scheme will be expanded next year to target low-income households with young children. The strategy also heralds a public consultation on proposals to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards for rental accommodation. This would mean that, in time, properties could not be let unless they had a BER certificate above a certain standard. This would not be introduced before 2020, to give time for the property market to stabilise. It would then apply initially to new leases only, and it would be staged, starting with properties with the lowest BER rating. See press release and strategy for download here

GREBE project launch – details and presentations

The EU-funded project ‘Generating Renewable Energy Business Enterprise’ (GREBE) was launched in Ballina, Co Mayo, at the end of February. IrBEA is an associate partner in the project which is led by Western Development Commission and has partners from the North West Periphery Region including Northern Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Iceland and Finland. GREBE aims to equip SMEs and start-ups with the skills and confidence to overcome sector challenges in their areas and use place-based natural assets for renewable energy to sustainable effect. Presentations from the launch and other project detail are available here

Videos of Speakers’ Presentations – National Bioenergy Conference, 3 Feb 2016

In response to requests, IrBEA is now providing a click-and-view of the presentations from the National Bioenergy Conference held on 3rd February. Each of the nine speaker presentations are available in full (sound and vision), and this new service for IrBEA members and other interested parties provides more enduring value from our quality speaker line-up. See videos here and further below for press articles and downloadable presentations.

1. Energy Minister Alex White Speech (Delivered by Eamonn Confrey, DCENR Principal Officer Decarbonisation Policy Division)

2. Eamon McGrath, Gaelectric Chief Commercial Officer (Conference Sponsor) – Turning Policy Into Projects

3. Frank Groome, DCENR Decarbonisation Policy Division – Renewable Support Schemes for Heating and Electricity

4. Dr Cara Augustenborg, Friends of the Earth Ireland – New Climate Change Agenda

5. Prof. Alan Matthews, Trinity College Dublin – Energy Union, Agriculture and Irish Farming

6. Prof. Patricia Thornley, Manchester University/SuperGen Bioenergy Hub – Bioenergy Policy Challenges and Misconceptions

7. Kjell Andersson, Swedish Bioenergy Association (SVEBIO) – How Bioenergy Became The Largest Energy Source in Sweden

8. Finn Mortensen, State of Green – Denmark’s Best Practice Delivering Renewables for Social Benefit

9. David McKee, B9 Energy Group – Anaerobic Digestion in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Information on the Gas Innovation Fund – Gas Networks Ireland

At the end of 2015 IrBEA and Cré jointly wrote to GNI requesting answers to the following questions about the Gas Innovation Fund.
– How can our members apply to this fund?
– What are the fund’s’ scope, terms and conditions?
– What projects have been supported to date?
– How much funding has been approved?
– What is the application process?
– What criteria determine success or failure?
– What provisions are in place to ensure fund transparency in the future?
This week we received the following response from GNI:
Gas Networks Ireland welcome your interest in the Gas Innovation Group. In order to obtain the answers to your questions below – please find the Gas Innovation Group section on our website. The application forms and evaluation criteria are outlined on the site and there is detail also in the application forms themselves. We would welcome applications from you and your members.


North’s RHI closure on 29th February confirmed

Last week we reported Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) Minister Jonathan Bell had announced the domestic and non domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) schemes in Northern Ireland will close on the 29th February. The NI Assembly duly approved the closure earlier this week, see Notice of Suspension. Responding to the move, John Martin, Chairman of Biomass Energy Northern Ireland (BENI) issued a press release and called for “urgent talks between the NI Government and the heat sector to plan an appropriate way forward”. The Belfast Telegraph reported this. In a further step this week, John Martin wrote to Minister Bell (cc’d to UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd and to Patsy McGlone, MLA Chairperson, Committee of Enterprise, Trade and Investment) requesting an urgent meeting  to discuss the implications of the suspension and to consider an appropriate policy framework going forward to 2020 and beyond. See letter.

The Sustainable Energy RD&D call

SEAI has announced the first of two calls for proposals for the Sustainable Energy RD&D Programme. With a total fund of €1m, the programme aims to improve the coherence of Irish energy research and development, building a cleaner and more secure energy future, while enhancing the country’s knowledge economy. The deadline for the first call is 1st April. A second call is due to open on 1st May. See guidelines and application form here

Videos of speakers’ presentations – National Bioenergy Conference, 3 Feb 2016

In response to requests, IrBEA is now providing a click-and-view of the presentations from the National Bioenergy Conference held on 3rd February. Each of the nine speaker presentations are available in full (sound and vision), and this new service for IrBEA members and other interested parties provides more enduring value from our quality speaker line-up. See videos on the IrBEA homepage here and if you would like to see the press releases and presentations (pdf), view here.

BioEnergy Working Group 3 Consultation

DCENR set up four working groups in 2014 to allow consultation on the National Bioenergy Plan.
Working Group 3 (Biomass Supply Chains) met in December (2015) and reviewed the following proposed changes to the BioEnergy Plan


BioEnergy Plan

We are now asked to comment on these proposed changes, by the end of this week. The changes are only 3 pages so its quite fast to do.
We are asking members to have a look at the proposed changes and send your comments / suggestions to myself by close of business Thursday. I will compile IrBEA’s response and send in by Friday this week.

Some of the main changes we are considering are:
7.1  Propose changes to legislation to allow sludge to be spread on energy crops. This is currently only allowed with a waste permit, where as sludge can be spread without a waste permit on food crops!
7.3 We received a proposal to make B-Train trucks legal. B-Trains are essentially twin trailers, and will lower the transport costs of light bulky materials like wood chip.
9 Retain the sentence “Additional funding will be required in the period to 2020 to fund the establishment of the bioenergy sector”
9.2 Is there a need to legislate or regulate for district heating?  we would be interested in members views. Also we will be calling for all public buildings to be required to embrace district heating where it is available and economic

We welcome your comments on the above.

With Best Regards,

Noel Gavigan

DAFM land availability for forestry – report launch

Prepared by the Council for Forest Research and Development (COFORD), this Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine report launched on 14 January outlines the physical land resource that is potentially available for afforestation and makes a series of recommendations on how to increase the level of planting. The report states: “On lands classified as being ‘limited’ for agriculture, representing 1.8 million hectares, there is wider scope for afforestation. These lands have a higher proportion of difficult soils, often economically marginal for agriculture, with forestry presenting a viable alternative land use option.” See press release and link to document

COP21 Paris agreement on Climate Change

The Paris agreement on Climate Change is historic, but the text is complicated, and so what does it actually mean? Here’s theEuropean Commission summary. The Guardian  in the UK sheds some clarity on the high-level/macro meaning. This Irish Independent article outlines what was agreed by the 195 countries, while a second Irish Indo article examines the implications for the agri-food sector. And for those of you with time on your hands, here’s the full downloadable agreement from the UNFCCC website.