The IFA has accused the government of excluding farmers from its renewable energy strategy.
Its president, Tim Cullinan, said the government is “failing” to embrace the potential of farms to generate renewable energy.
In making this remark, he welcomed the announcement of a significant solar farm coming onto the grid in Cork.
“Almost every farm has the potential to generate renewable energy for its own use and ultimately to generate power for the National Grid,” he said.
“However, the focus of the government has been on large-scale projects. While this might be the quickest way to get more renewable energy onto the grid, it is a lost opportunity to include farmers at a local level.”
He stated that a “workable” microgeneration scheme could reduce input costs, provide a supplementary income source for 130,000 farmers, and create “much-needed” rural employment.
“There needs to be a clear government strategy to facilitate grid connections for farmers and to properly support the installation of rooftop solar and other key infrastructure,” he said.
Microgeneration support scheme
He described the recently published draft microgeneration support scheme as “inadequate”. Therefore, the farm leader believes it will not work for farmers.
“The government needs to harness the potential of on-farm generation instead of just paying it lip service,” he said.
“Farmers want to be central players in Ireland’s energy transition. It is happening in other countries, but this government is dragging its feet.”
“For example, bioenergy is a thriving industry across Europe. Despite our natural advantage in producing bioenergy due to our mild climate and fertile land, Ireland is ranked 27th out of 28 member states regarding its use of renewable heat according to the SEAI.”
Bioenergy, particularly biogas, could reduce the agricultural sector’s environmental impact, he added. “The environmental and climate benefits of biogas are significant.”
“Together with a reduction in emissions and increased energy security, it allows for the exploitation of agriculture by-products.”
Furthermore, he added, the by-product of anaerobic digestion (i.e., digestate) can be used as an organic fertiliser.
“It is vital that farmers and communities are supported and that barriers are removed for them to assist in Ireland’s future energy generation,” he concluded.