Scheme boost for elephant grass growers

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

AdARE company JHM Crops Ltd, the largest miscanthus company in Ireland, have welcomed the announcement of the Bioenergy Scheme 2013 by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

AdARE company JHM Crops Ltd, the largest miscanthus company in Ireland, have welcomed the announcement of the Bioenergy Scheme 2013 by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

The Minister said the early launch of the scheme will help to build on the progress made since 2007 in developing the energy crops sector in Ireland.

“It will also provide an opportunity for prospective growers to make an early decision on planting energy crops in 2013 and facilitate the assessment of lands with potential for inclusion in prospective applications at a time of year that should avoid the adverse winter weather conditions experienced in recent years.

The scheme is now open for applications and interested farmers can apply for establishment grants of up to €1,300 per hectare to cover 50 per cent of the cost of establishing these crops,” said Minister Coveney.

Ronan Madigan, JHM Crops communications director, said it is essential for the renewable energy sector that the Department keeps to it’s commitment to encourage this new indigenous industry, to ensure that the progress made over the last number of years is not in vain.

He pointed out the Department of Agriculture has been promoting energy crops since 2007, yet the long awaited REFIT III was not implemented by the Department of Energy (DCENR) until January 2012.

“There needs to be more joined-up thinking between the Departments if this industry is to prosper to it’s full potential. I welcome the announcement from the Minister, but if other Departments were as committed as the Department of Agriculture, this industry could be much further forward at this stage,” said Mr Madigan.

Many of the companies involved in biomass power generation sector were forced to take a step back because of the uncertainty about REFIT, he said.

“No-one was willing to turn a sod on a power generation plant until that was sorted. It must be realised that this next phase will require major investment by the private sector, it will help us to reach our renewable targets and create thousands of much-needed jobs. Many projects are now back on the table since the pricing system was finalised in January,” he added.

He says the energy crop market will now multiply rapidly with the combination of price security and the commissioning of several new biomass power generation facilities. Planting had slowed down in the last couple of years because of all the uncertainty.

“The current supply of energy crops couldn’t meet a fraction of the demand, so there is a massive market rolling out in front of us. The challenge will be to grow enough miscanthus in Ireland to meet the demand,” said Mr Madigan.

The closing date for submission of applications for pre-planting approval is Friday, October 12.