Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
651. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the measures being promoted by her Department to increase the growth and use of biofuel crops to meet Ireland’s energy needs and to supplement farm incomes; if her Department is working in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources to promote such renewable energy sources; if not, the reason therefor; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10944/05]
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mary Coughlan): The promotion and development of renewable energy, including biofuels, are matters in the first instance for the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. An interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, and comprising of officials from my own Department, the Departments of Finance and Transport, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Sustainable Energy Ireland, SEI, was set up in December 2003 to consider policy options for the development of a biofuels sector in Ireland.
My Department introduced an energy crops scheme in March 2004 in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003. Under this scheme, aid of €45 per hectare is granted for areas sown under energy crops and used for the production of products considered biofuels and electric and thermal energy produced from biomass. Any agricultural raw material, with the exception of sugar beet, may be grown under the energy crops scheme.
From 1 January 2005, farmers may claim the energy crop payment in addition to their entitlement under the single farm payment scheme. In addition to this scheme, set-aside land can be used for a variety of non-food uses, including growing of crops for energy purposes, and will, therefore, qualify to activate set-aside entitlements under the single payment scheme.
I am conscious both of the potential to produce energy from biomass and of the value of wood as a carbon-neutral fuel. I consider that the production of energy from biomass offers an important potential market for forest residues. There is, I believe, real potential to use thinnings from our forests to generate heat and power, thus decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels.
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