|As fossil fuel prices surge globally so too do the costs of fertilizer, food, and heating, sparking greater calls from households to businesses and even government to seek alternative fuel sources, mirroring countries like Denmark, Austria, and Sweden who have made large strides in the transition toward renewable energy. Ireland has a unique opportunity to follow in these countries’ footsteps by switching to timber-based fuel sources as Irish woodland grows three times faster than in Nordic countries.
According to the Irish BioEnergy association (IrBEA) we will produce two million cubic meters of timber annually by 2035, equating to 7.8% of Ireland’s heating bill and cutting fuel costs for commercial operators by 60% based on current prices. It would also provide jobs for the local economy in the areas of forest management, harvesting, haulage, and maintenance.
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) also provides an ideal opportunity for non-domestic heat users to transition from fossil fuels to biomass systems, but uptake is slow outside of agricultural facilities due to a lack of promotion and advertising, even though hotels, care-homes, and leisure centres are ideally placed to benefit, especially in the wake of the hardships they felt during the pandemic. To make this transition however, we need a more consistent supply of timber. Yet the rate at which forestry licences are being issued is still far too low, with recent data indicating Ireland will only reach 60% of our yearly target by the end of 2022. This lack of progress remains a key hurdle to the future success of the sector, particularly since the opportunities and benefits accruing from the sector are so apparent.