Bioenergy Policy Reform Vital For Long-term Economic Sustainability in Rural Communities

The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations, is calling for key reforms to Ireland’s bioenergy policy. The benefits of these reforms would be felt in many rural communities in terms of long-term investment and job creation. Without these reforms, Ireland will struggle to meet its renewable energy targets without taking land out of food production and destroying important natural habitats.

Bioenergy is energy derived from material such as wood, plants, animals and waste. The drafting of a new national bioenergy strategy is currently underway by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

According to the Environmental Pillar, three major concerns need to be addressed in the new strategy:

* Supporting local biomass energy production for heat and electricity using sustainable methods;

* Promoting energy production from anaerobic digestion; and

* Removing subsidies for the use of biofuels in transport.

The potential positive impacts of the first two key recommendations are equally compelling, according to Michael Ewing, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar. “Local energy initiatives will create investment in local jobs and will give farmers an added incentive to use sustainable agroforestry as another income source,” he says. “Promoting anaerobic digestion is just a no-brainer. We produce a million tonnes of food waste inIrelandeach year, and about 40 million tonnes of slurry from farms. Let’s use this waste as a sustainable, renewable energy source.”

He adds: “If incentives for biofuel production continue, we’ll see increasing intensification of agriculture as well as loss of natural spaces like border strips and hedgerows. We can’t sustain that kind of biodiversity loss without it impacting on our daily lives in the long term.”

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