Months of waiting ended this week with the publication of the National Biomethane Strategy, which aims to provide a roadmap for establishing 140-200 anaerobic digestion (AD) plants by 2030.

Although the report contained no major surprises, it is the first concrete policy document for AD from this Government, which is a step in the right direction.

However, it has become clear that the State has opted to make AD development as difficult as possible, almost ensuring its targets cannot be met. Simple, established measures to reduce risk, such as long-term support schemes like those in place for wind and solar farms, seem unpalatable to the State.

Instead, it has opted for a capital grant aid scheme, which does nothing to reduce the risk to a farmer to build an AD plant or help make it bankable.


Furthermore, the decision to draw down a mediocre €40m out of a potential €1bn EU pot is questionable. This means that building AD plants will likely be achievable only for commercial developers, relegating farmers to the roles of feedstock suppliers and digestate users.

Don’t get me wrong. More market choice and an alternative to chemical fertilisers are welcome, but this policy falls short of its potential.

We had an opportunity to develop a new industry from the ground up – one that could be farmer-owned and support a fair and just transition.

Instead, the State’s lack-lustre effort has made it nearly impossible for farmers to own this industry.

Concerns were raised this week about the country’s ability to meet its legally binding emissions reduction targets.

Ireland’s 2030 biomethane target exemplifies this perfectly: set an overly ambitious target, delay the implementation of necessary supporting policies and eventually introduce a watered-down policy that ensures the target cannot be met.

Needless to say, there is much more work to do on this.