Northern Ireland’s expanding renewable energy industry is hungry for good quality land, pricing out farmers and now seeking leases in the Republic. Rental values for productive grassland in the north coast area of Northern Ireland have seen a sharp increase within the past fortnight as competition intensifies between larger dairy units looking to expand and farmers looking to produce grass for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants in the area.
Farmers and auctioneers report prices as high as £450/acre (€512/acre) have been paid at auction for top-quality silage ground in the Coleraine area to supply AD plants. Other auctions have seen silage ground making over £400/acre (€457/acre). With limited ground coming on to the rental market, the knock-on effect has seen conacre prices for less productive grassland in the surrounding area also rising, with reports of £200/acre (€228/acre) to £300/acre (€342/acre)being paid on leases secured in January. While some of these prices are inflated by area-based payments, there is no doubt that AD plant operators are in a strong position to bid as a result of government subsidies for AD.
Operators of AD plants in Northern Ireland have also begun to lease land south of the border to grow feedstock such as grass or maize silage. One auctioneer, one farmer and one agribusiness representative in the border area of the Republic reported that farmers in north Co Monaghan had difficulty competing with NI biogas producers for land leases. While this is reported to be on a small scale and the sources had no figures available, pressure could increase in the future as renewable energy support schemes become available from the end of this year in the Republic.
The GREBE Industry Advisory Group (IAG) contributes towards dissemination of GREBE outputs and learnings among their wider networks, including at local, regional and national policy level where possible. The third annual meeting was organized at LUKE, Metla-talo Joensuu on Thursday 22th of February 2018. Finnish GREBE project partners updated the IAG on the project developments, outcomes over the last year and presented GREBE deliverables (Robert Prinz, LUKE) and its business mentoring in Finland through the Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (Lasse Okkonen, Karelia UAS).
The third IAG meeting was the last meeting of the GREBE IAG with representatives from the renewable energy SMEs, research and education, business development companies, regional authority and agricultural producers and forest owners union. The IAG discussed on how to disseminate the final deliverables, cooperate with future activities and how GREBE activities can most effectively be implemented in practice, based on their own experience of working in or supporting the renewable energy.
Following the GREBE IAG meeting, the regional Poveria Biomassasta project hosted a local workshop with over 20 participants at the same premises on energy business including IAG representatives, entrepreneur enabler scheme participants and other stakeholders from the field. The workshop focused on bioenergy business models and experiences of entrepreneurs in the business area with a main topic on heat entrepreneurship and biogas delivery. The event was targeted for farmers and possible heat entrepreneurs as well as other interested stakeholders.
On 28th of January 2018 in Brussels at an EU steering committee meeting on energy technique of the future, SETPLAN, Guðni A. Jóhannesson general director of energy reported on a plan on deployment of geothermal heat for heating and electric production in Europe. Iceland is a member in SETPLAN cooperation on the grounds of EEA cooperation.
A workgroup under supervision of Guðni and other colleagues have been working on various topics e.g. technical matters, highlights and projects that need to be fulfilled under strict rules of the steering committee set in the beginning of the project. Matters that need to be covered are e.g. utilization of geothermal heat, improve the competitiveness and minimize costs regarding exclusive factors of geothermal heat production.
The SETPLAN committee approved the plan from the workgroup and to finance research and development projects within the geothermal fields with 940 billion euro. The financing comes from the partner countries, from EU funds and the industry. The first cooperation project has begun, GEOTHERMICA, and applications thereunder could lead to 60 billion euro projects. Orkustofnun (National Energy Authority) leads the project from Iceland; other partners are also RANNÍS (The Icelandic Centre for Research) which runs the application process. GEORG runs the office of the project and daily operations.
Taxi drivers and operators of other public service vehicles are set to benefit from a new €7,000 grant scheme aimed at encouraging them to opt for electric vehicles. Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has announced a new incentive scheme offering a €7,000 grant towards the purchase of an electric vehicle for those with a small public service vehicle (SPSV) licence. That grant is on top of the existing electric car incentives – the €5,000 rebate on vehicle registration tax, a €3,800 grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and the upcoming new grant from the SEAI for installing a home-charging point.
The Department of Transport grant applies to any fully electric vehicle up to six years old, although the amount reduces according to the age of the car. A smaller €3,500 grant applies if you want to buy a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for taxi use, but only those with Co2 emissions lower than 65g/km. Conventional hybrids are excluded.
The move is the latest in a series of measures being introduced by the Government to promote electric car ownership. Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe introduced a one-year exemption on benefit in kind for electric vehicles in the budget, and it is expected that the exemption will be rolled out for at least three years, including a suspension of any benefit in kind levied on charging your electric car at work.
Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten has stated that he is looking at other ways to encourage an increase in the move to electric vehicles, including making motorways tolls free for electric cars and banning sales of any non-hybrid or electric car from 2030 onwards. However, the current financial incentives are still not having much effect. Electric cars accounted for a paltry 0.25 per cent of the market last year, with just 622 sold in total in a total new car market of 131,335.
South West College has unveiled plans for its £29 million new build which gets underway in March. Tracey Brothers has been appointed as the main contractor for the construction and development of the new Erne Campus which will be situated on the site of the former Erne Hospital in Enniskillen.
The new campus, which has been designed by Hamilton Architects, will see the delivery of the first educational building worldwide to achieve the highest international standard in environmental construction, PassivHaus Premium. Construction of the 8,200m2 building is scheduled to begin in two months and will provide employment for over 200 people including a number of apprenticeship opportunities.
A spokeswoman for South West College said the building, which is due to be completed in January 2020, will “further enhance the College’s existing global reputation in the sustainable construction sector and will be used to attract international companies and students in this field.”
Eno Energy cooperative is an internationally acknowledged example of heat entrepreneurship based on a cooperative model. Substituting fossil fuel oil with locally produced woodchips in community heating since the year 2000 has resulted in significant socio-economic benefits. Latest research by GREBE partners Karelia UAS and LUKE outlines these through a time-series analysis.
The Eno Energy Cooperative operates and owns three district heating plants producing 15,500 MWh of heat annually and uses approximately 27,000 loose cubic metres of locally produced woodchips. The impacts of the Eno Energy Cooperative were modelled by using an input-output model of North-Karelia, including 33 sectors. The impacts presented are total impacts including construction of heating plants in 2000-2004, production of heat by using locally produced woodchips, and impacts of reduced heating costs (savings) in both public and private sectors. Induced impacts are captured by including household consumption as a sector in the I-O model, and re-investing public sector savings to the social services.
According to the I-O modelling, total employment impacts of the Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015 were approximately 160 FTE’s and total income impact in same period were approximately 6.6 MEUR. During the period of highest oil prices, over 50% of the benefits resulted from heating cost savings of both private households and public sector.
The results indicate that socio-economic impacts may be generated by using different types of strategies, such as utilising business models of social enterprises with re-investment strategies, or cooperatives providing use for the local resources and reducing the energy costs both in private and public sectors.
Currently, Eno Energy Cooperative are participating in the GREBE Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (EES) roll-out in North Karelia. They are investigating future business and cooperation opportunities together with business a mentor from Spiralia Ltd., Lahti.
Figure1: Employment impacts (FTE jobs) of Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015, including impacts of construction, heat production and heating cost savings (when re-invested).
Figure2: Income impacts of Eno Energy Cooperative in 2000-2015, including impacts of construction, heat production and heating cost savings (when re-invested).
The Environmental Research Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, in conjunction with the European Marine Energy Centre and Action Renewables, organised a workshop on the 1st February 2018 in Kirkwall City Hall. Hydrogen is now an integral component of the Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy, and the work which Orkney (along with many others) has undertaken in recent years has helped to inform and shape this strategy. Hydrogen has real potential to make a transformation to the energy system in Orkney.
The workshop consisted of two parts. The first began with an introduction to the GREBE project by Michael Doran, the Managing Director of Action Renewable and the objectives of the workshop, presented by Jon Clipsham, the Hydrogen Development Manager at EMEC. They were then followed by the presentations below:
- “Orkney’s Energy System”, by Neil Kermode, the Managing Director of EMEC.
- “Orkney Council hydrogen strategy and current projects update”, by Adele Lidderdale, the Hydrogen Project Officer at Orkney Islands Council.
- “Orkney Energy Audit and the place for hydrogen”, presented by Ian Johnstone, representing both Aquatera and the Orkney Renewable Energy Forum.
- “Hydrogen production / vehicles / refuelling stations”, by Guy Verkoeyen from Belgium, representing Hydrogenics.
- “Hydrogen for domestic use / CHP units”, presented by Bill Ireland, Managing Director at Logan Energy.
The second part of the workshop was more practical. The first part of it was led by Jon Clipsham where delegates were divided into groups, and asked to discuss and come up with the top five key priorities for the future development of Orkney’s hydrogen future. The second part of the workshop was led by Michael Doran and delegates discussed how the Orkney Hydrogen Model can be replicated in other NPA Regions.
This workshop had the following aims:
- to inform delegates about Orkney’s progress with hydrogen technologies to date
- to share information on the current projects and opportunities
- to discuss the next steps which we can take to replicate the model in other NPA Regions.
It was astonishing to see all the relevant stakeholders, important for the further development of Orkney’s Hydrogen Economy, gathered in one room, participating in an open discussion and displaying a willingness to work together.