The biomethane strategy published by the Government on Tuesday will require a lot more funding in order to meet the biomethane targets set out in the Climate Action Plan, IFA president Francie Gorman has said.

If the Government is serious about producing 5.7 terawatt hours (TWhs) of biomethane through the construction of 200 Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants by 2030, more than €40m in funding is needed, Gorman said.

"Countries such as Denmark have successfully developed a biomethane sector, but they committed multiples of this figure in funding. There are also other logistical issues that need to be ironed out, including the classification of the by-products such as digestate," he said.

There is, Gorman said, potential to develop an indigenous AD industry in Ireland, adding however that the discussion needs to be much more inclusive of farmers or there is a real danger that AD will become the preserve of big business.

IFA farm business chair Bill O’Keeffe said the strategy has to be farmer led if it’s to succeed.

Given the scale of the investment required, he argued that incentives will be needed to convince farmers to participate.

“Government-backed finance, similar to SBCI lending arrangements, should be provided to enable farmers to invest. Support for the construction of viable AD plants and storage will have to come from the Department of Energy and Climate Change,” he said.

Renewable Gas Forum

Meanwhile, Renewable Gas Forum Ireland (RGFI) welcomed the publication of the National Biomethane Strategy as an important first step towards meeting Ireland’s biomethane target of 5.7 TWh by 2030.

RGFI CEO, PJ McCarthy, said the announcement of an initial €40m in capital funding to 2025 and a commitment to introduce a policy enabler placing an obligation on energy providers to buy the renewable gas, will provide much needed certainty for RGFI members.

McCarthy also welcomed the inclusion of other non-financial supports, such as non-contestable gas grid connections, the AD Charter to guide sustainability, as well as the establishment of a communications strategy and hub.

“The initial €40m being provided in capital grants will kick start the development of circa 10 x 40 GWh AD plants within the next 18 months.

"While a modest beginning, this is a crucial first step. We look forward to working through the detail with Government on behalf of our members who range from farmers to large scale energy users," McCarthy added.

RGFI welcomes the Government’s commitment to operate the Renewable Heat Obligation scheme from 2024 and to provide a further Capital Funding in the 2025 Budget, saying this must be adequate to support the construction of up to 130 more median sized biomethane production units.

RGFI also welcomed the provision for a charter to underpin the sustainability of all projects.

“This is a phased approach to the creation of a biomethane industry in Ireland. The benefits, as acknowledged in the strategy go beyond energy and decarbonisation.

"The demand for agri-based feedstocks will generate additional income streams for farmers, as well as providing on-farm sustainability and water quality benefits, and ultimately carbon farming and a bio-economy," he said.

The strategy, however, does not provide a standardised approach to planning and licensing, McCarthy argued.

"Also, while the end use of biomethane will be determined by the market, the Government has an opportunity in the next round of funding to ensure that difficult-to-decarbonise sectors, such as the indigenous food processors and farmer owned co-operatives, with high thermal needs, can compete effectively for biomethane," McCarthy said.