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Forestry Minister welcomes "Greener Homes" Scheme

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Ms Mary Wallace T.D., today welcomed the launch of the Government's "Greener Homes" scheme which will provide financial aid for householders to install wood fuelled boilers. Grant aid will also be provided for the installation of bigger boilers in small and medium scale enterprises.

Minister Wallace said that she believes that there is a great potential in Ireland for wood biomass to displace imported fossil fuels as a source of energy. She went on to say "my Department is funding a number of pilot-projects in this whole area, including the development of a thinning protocol with the Forestry Development Association (FDA) and an integrated forest-to-energy project in County Clare. COFORD and Teagasc have organised a number of practical 'energy thinning' field days over the past few weeks. Forest owners have been shown how to thin their forests and store the thinnings in the wood to dry over the summer months. Demonstrations will be given in the autumn on chipping these thinnings so that they can be used to fuel wood boilers".

Minister Wallace emphasised the close cooperation between her Department and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. One of the main obstacles to be overcome in terms of wood-energy has been the high cost of installing wood-fired boilers. Another challenge is to increase and maintain the supply of raw material, and of wood-chip in particular.

Ms Wallace said that the Government had provided a major boost for renewable energy markets with this innovative new scheme. The Minister said that she would be complementing the move by seeking EU approval to introduce a special scheme to support the major investment required for the purchase of biomass harvesters and chippers, which would be critical for the supply of fuel to these new markets. A related scheme to grant-aid the planting of willow as a short-rotation fuel source is also being prepared for EU approval. "The stimulation of new markets and creation of new harvesting capacity is good news for all involved in the sector".

She also pointed out that the boilers used in these systems are fully automated without the need for any manual handling and can be fitted to existing conventional heating systems. These boilers provide many benefits including significant environmental benefits, a plentiful local supply of fuel and stability of fuel price - fuel costs will not be affected by the price of oil. There are boilers to suit all situations and there is no reason why any farmer could not be self sufficient in a short time.

Finally she said that cooperation between Government Departments is crucial in this area. "Together we can demonstrate to other users of fossil fuels, both large and small, the real alternatives now available in this area while also providing a market for first thinnings and other forms of this most environmentally friendly and renewable of fuels".

30 March, 2006

Date Released: 30 March 2006