Fine Gael Limerick West Deputy Dan Neville has welcomed the decision by the Minister for Agriculture and Food to introduce the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) for the supply of Miscanthus, also known as elephant grass, to peat burning power stations.
“This decision will mean peat can be replaced with a highly efficient, environmentally friendly material. It facilitates competition or partial replacement. This development represents a great boost to the industry and to the suppliers and farmers who grow miscanthus. At present, some 5,000 acres are grown nationally but that could expand exponentially if the power station market is opened up.
“Interestingly, some 10% of the national crop is grown in my constituency in Limerick. The REFIT price is crucial for the survival of the miscanthus business in Ireland. In excess of 5,000 acres have been planted. The scheme pays the ESB and Bord na Móna a special price for electricity produced from biomass such as miscanthus.
“The scheme makes it viable for those in the industry to help the Government achieve its aim of 30% biomass co-firing in peat power stations by 2015. This is an excellent opportunity for the Government to achieve the objectives it set out. The industry has put considerable investment into the supply chain to deliver miscanthus to peat-fueled power stations. Investment has already taken place on the basis of the promise given by the Department. Everything is in place to deliver miscanthus immediately and the industry is now in a position to do so. Uncertainty was crippling the business and the industry in general. I understand some miscanthus is used already in peat-fueled power stations at a loss of between €38 and €39 per tonne.
“The proposed approach to the power stations is part of the much heralded green economy. It has significant potential and simply required a relatively small amount of support to succeed. During the next five years we will have an opportunity to ensure that in reaching our target we supply the product from native sources with consequential benefits for the economy, job creation, farmers and the agricultural industry which produces the crop.
“The potential for the development of the crop with the resultant job opportunities is enormous.”