Western Development Commission sets targets for the region’s wood energy sector
The Western Development Commission (WDC) has established that wood fuel has the potential to heat the region’s 900 primary schools by 2020 if its new report, Wood Energy Strategy and Action Plan, is implemented. The report estimates that by 2020 using wood to produce heat could be worth €15 million, create up to 900 jobs and provide €1.7 million each year to the West’s farming sector.
Increased use of wood fuel could also see a reduction in the Region’s carbon footprint by cutting 600,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum; a saving of nearly €7 million for the country by reducing the number of carbon credits needed to meet our Kyoto commitment.
Speaking at the start of European Sustainable Energy Week, Gillian Buckley said, “The wood energy market in Ireland is relatively underdeveloped compared to international levels. However the Western Region has a huge opportunity to exploit this renewable resource as we have 40% of Ireland’s wood resources in our region. If this report is implemented, the West could develop an indigenous, sustainable, renewable energy resource delivering 11% of the regions’ heat needs. A particularly interesting aspect, of reaching this target, is the economic impact, and the fact that wood could provide €1.7 million each year to the regions’ farmers and create up to 900 jobs in the rural economy.”
The report was commissioned as part of the WDC’s work to develop the renewable energy sector in the Western Region, and focuses on tapping into the demand from commercial and industrial heat users such as hotels, hospitals and schools.
Bernadette Phelan, the WDC’s project leader said, “The report recommends that the Western Region aims for a target of 477MW from wood energy, which would bring us in line with the 2020 national heat target for wood energy. When heat pumps and solar panels are included, then the region is well on track to exceed the 12% national target.”
“The task now is to secure funding to deliver on the three year action plan and we are working with partners to drive that forward to realise this valuable economic opportunity.
The WDC worked closely with the Regional Wood Energy Advisory Group (RWEAG) on this report and the next steps will continue on the basis of cooperation and partnership,” Ms Phelan concluded.
Members of the RWEAG include Sustainable Energy Ireland; Teagasc; LEADER Programme; Údarás na Gaeltachta; Regional Energy Agencies; Local Authorities (Donegal County Council); Sligo Institute of Technology (Department of Environmental Science); Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources; The Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture and Food; IFA Farm Forestry; Rural Generation Ltd; Imperative Energy LtdGreen Belt Ltd; and Balcas Timber Ltd.
For further information please contact:
Gillian Buckley (087 223 6982) / Bernadette Phelan (086 834 0279), Western Development Commission, or Angela Bane, Bane Mullarkey, 087 286 5217.
Notes to editors on wood energy in the Western region
The potential wood fuel supply projections are based on wood produced from private sector forestry and co-products. This forestry material is available in the region as the woodlands are young. The main harvesting activity over the next 20 years will be thinning of these planted private sector forests to allow the strongest trees to flourish and provide a valuable by-product. This material is ideal for energy use as: it is low value; small in diameter and thus suitable for chipping. Its low moisture content (c. 35% moisture content) can be achieved through conventional air drying processes resulting in a quality wood chip fuel. Critically this material is additional to current market demand and could be supplied into a wood energy market without a displacement impact on the supply of wood for other markets in the region and beyond.