Energy in Agriculture at Gurteen College on 22 August will highlight the energy efficient and renewable opportunities available within agriculture through a series of demos, seminars, clinics and an exhibitor arena.

Renewables are new technologies and require support schemes to encourage their deployment. As technology costs come down, so too will the level of supports available. We have seen a dramatic fall in the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

We need a clear matching of technology costs to the supports which will be put in place. The long-awaited Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) will bring advancements in renewable heat deployment and we are currently awaiting a consultation on the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.

These supports will radically change our approach towards energy use and technology adoption over the coming years.


Our targets at European level have been relatively well defined. Ireland needs a clear vision and pathway set out by Government as to how we are going to meet the individual targets for renewable heat transport and electricity targets.

We also need a better approach towards developing renewable energy projects.

The procedures for approvals are quite long in Ireland and this adds to the cost of developing renewable projects, especially for renewable electricity.

Planning and approval, together with grid connection, are notable costly delays.

There are so many agencies renewable project developers must work with to get projects off the ground that it effectively kills off most projects.

We need a one-stop-shop solution to streamline decision-making for investors.

Ireland is not on track to meet its renewable targets for 2020. Our target is 16% total final consumption of energy from renewables in heat, transport and electricity by then. We are currently 9.2% of the way there.

EU fines

The Taoiseach in place in 2020 will have to face looming European fines of possibly €500m/year. The political fallout of not meeting our targets can be minimised by spending the money on ourselves to develop renewables instead of paying it out in EU fines.

We are currently at 6.4% of a 12% renewable heat target. Agriculture will have to contribute significantly to meeting this.

Biomass is expected to meet 50% of our heating and cooling targets. There are opportunities here to move forward in terms of biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal, to name a few.

It is important to remember that renewables are no longer special. They are our energy systems of the future.

Renewables are addressed in all EU directives such as energy directive, electricity regulation, building energy performance directive, electricity directive and energy efficiency directive. Renewables provide us with enabling technologies to meet our challenging targets for 2020 and beyond.

Ireland has seen and benefited from much industrial advancement over the past 60 years. We have seen major developments in telecommunications. In energy, we are on the cusp of a revolutionary change.

Will we let this industrial revolution pass us by, like what happened in the first industrial revolution? What is for sure is that it will happen, because there are enough members of the European Parliament who see this as a benefit to their economies.

Benefits of renewables

Denmark sees renewables as a launchpad for exports. Renewable energy is an integral part of German industrial policy. This is a strategy to keep their industry competitive.

Spain launched into the renewable space because it wanted to be a global player in renewable energy.

The question for Ireland is: will we be dragged kicking and screaming into the renewable space, or will Ireland be centre stage and grasp this opportunity?

It will cost money to achieve these targets and encourage the deployment of renewables. Our exports of food from Ireland do not pay for the cost of imported fossil fuels.

We have to look at this as an opportunity and look at what renewables can do for the economy as a whole.

This is money we can spend on developing Irish jobs in construction and improve our energy efficiency and energy security.

The ordinary citizen must benefit

We currently do not have a tariff for the deployment of renewable electricity from photovoltaic roof-mounted or ground-mounted cellular modules.

We need a tariff for individuals to be able to benefit by having PV on individual domestic houses.

If individuals are paying a public service obligation levy on their electricity bills to pay for renewables, then the ordinary citizen should be allowed deploy a PV array on their own house and benefit from any subsidies and feed-in tariff supports available.

Our regulatory environment needs to make renewables happen. We need both local and national politicians to stand up and be counted.

It is not acceptable to bury our heads in the sand when people are objecting to developments such as the North-South interconnector or the rolling out of PV or wind turbines, and hoping that this will all go away.

Progress will only happen with political leadership. Renewable energy must be presented in a way that the Irish citizen can buy into and become part of.

Individuals and citizens in Ireland should be empowered to generate renewable heat and power from renewable technologies, whether on farms, small businesses or domestic houses.

We need buy-in from the ground up into this energy transition. We have to look at the opportunities and benefits which will emerge from facilitating this, and not just focus on the costs.

The Energy in Agriculture conference is taking place in Gurteen College, Co Tipperary, on 22 August from 10am to 5pm. The event is free and KT-approved. Register to attend and book individual advice clinics at