To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress that has been made in the development and introduction of a biofuels obligation scheme by 2009 as included in the Agreed Programme for Government; if his biofuel targets will be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – David Stanton.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 23rd April, 2008.Ref No: 15468/08


Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr E Ryan)

My Department is currently finalising a consultation paper in relation to the proposed biofuels obligation. The consultation process will be rolled out shortly and this will allow all interested stakeholders to submit their views on the proposal. Specific details of the obligation will be developed as part of the consultation process. Ireland’s national biofuels obligation will take full account of EU developments in relation to biofuels policy and in particular the imperative to ensure sustainability.

The proposed biofuels obligation scheme has the objective of enabling Ireland to move progressively towards meeting EU targets for biofuels penetration in a cost-effective way while taking full account of environmental sustainability in line with EU developments.

Parliamentary Question No. 648, For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 2nd April, 2008.

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the amount currently available per hectare, per annum, under the EU energy crop payment scheme; the number of hectares of energy crops grown in 2007; the number she expects to be produced in 2008; the breakdown of the hectares of the relative crops grown in each of the two years; the projections of the number of hectares of the various crops to be grown in 2009; and if she will make a statement on the matter.- David Stanton.


The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: (Mary Coughlan)

There were 2,500 hectares used for the production of bio-energy crops in 2005, 4,500 hectares in 2006 and 8,900 hectares in 2007.

In 2007, I introduced a new National Energy Premium of €80 per hectare and a new Bio-Energy Scheme to assist the development of the production of energy crops in Ireland. The €80 National payment supplements the EU Premium of €45 per hectare. The buoyant market for bio-fuels and the introduction of the €80 incentive contributed to an increase in the area devoted to oilseed rape, which is used to produce bio-fuels.

The Bio-Energy Scheme aims to encourage farmers to grow willow and miscanthus as a renewable source of energy. These crops have considerable potential for heat and electricity generation and my Department is aiding establishment with grants of up to €1,450 per hectare. The introduction of this Scheme has been well received by farmers with some 800 hectares planted so far. I have provided sufficient funding in 2008 to support the planting of a further 1,600 hectares. As a further support measure, land planted with energy crops can also benefit under the Single Payment Scheme.

In advance of receipt of applications under the 2008 Scheme, it is difficult to estimate the number of hectares, which will be applied for in 2008, largely because of the dramatic price increase during 2007 for crops such as oilseed and the recently announced decision on the reduction of compulsory set-aside for 2008 to 0%. While oilseed has been harvested for the production of pure plant oil and bio-diesel, it is currently attracting significantly higher prices when sold for food purposes. With the change in the set-aside rules, farmers in 2008 have much greater freedom as to the use they will make of lands which previously they were required to set-aside i.e. farmers will have the option of growing energy crops on lands previously set-aside.