Irish Farmers ‘Must Be Given Renewable Incentives’
It is important to the Irish economy that farmers are given incentives to invest in renewable technologies, such as anaerobic digestion (AD).
This is the opinion of Pat Smith, the chairman of the Micro Renewable Energy Association (MREA), who told Agriland how renewable power could significantly benefit farmers, as well as the rest of the country.
“The voice of farming families needs to be heard in these negotiations and they [the political parties] must use this opportunity to deliver a package of income-earning supports for investing in renewable technologies on farms,” he stated.
This could help the industry recover after coronavirus, and will make a “real difference to incomes”.
It was suggested a renewable energy support package should be introduced that includes investment grants, a new feed-in tariff for micro-generation and priority grid access so farmers can make use of their roof space to generate an income from producing solar energy.
He estimates using roof space on Irish farms could create between 3,000 and 4,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity, while not taking up any more land.
Anaerobic digestion was also hailed as a good opportunity for Irish farmers, as biogases can be collected from farm slurries and manures. This could result in an entire bio-fertiliser industry, meaning fertilisers no longer have to be imported, saving farmers significant costs.
This would also protect Ireland from becoming “totally dependent” on future gas imports, which is a dangerous position to be in given political uncertainty around the world.
Mr Smith stated: “Political leaders must step up to the plate now and ensure that farmers are protected in any climate change deal in the formation of the new government.”
He added any change must “support and deliver profitable energy alternatives for farming families and rural Ireland”.
The MREA chairman was referring to the fractious political situation in Ireland, after Fianna Fail won just one seat more than Sinn Fein in the general election, which was held in February earlier this year.
This represented a 14-seat increase for Sinn Fein since the 2016 election, while Fine Gael lost 15 seats during this period. As a result, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party have been in talks to join forces to form a majority government.
Earlier this week, the three parties met to start detailing their policy negotiations, which will see them discuss issues on justice, finances, economics, and the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the agriculture industry.
It could take a while for the political parties to reach a conclusion on the important topics, particularly as it has already been three months since the election.
However, renewable energy generation should be a subject they consider too, as a report by the International Energy Association recently revealed 20 per cent of the global gas demand could be covered by biogas and biomethane resources alone. It also anticipated the availability of sustainable feedstocks for these processes will increase by 40 per cent by 2040.
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