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Minister Wallace addresses Agri-Vision Bio-energy Conferences

- Ambitious Biofuel targets to stimulate further indigenous production -

The Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mary Wallace T.D., officially opened the Agri-Vision Bioenergy Conferences at Dunboyne Castle, Dunboyne, Co. Meath and at Clonmel Park Hotel, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. The conferences are a joint initiative by the Department of Agriculture and Food and Teagasc and are taking place on two consecutive days on the 6th and 7th of March to accommodate the high level of interest.

The line up of speakers includes a number of leading national and international experts with direct experience of the issues, opportunities and constraints in producing bioenergy. Among the guest speakers are Sir Ben Gill, Chairman of the UK Biomass Taskforce, Dr Malcolm Dawson, formerly Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland and Lucy Hodsman from the National Non-Food Crop Centre in the UK.

Opening the conference, Minister Wallace said "there has never been a more opportune time to highlight the case for bioenergy production in Ireland given our high dependence on imported fossil fuels and the options under the reformed CAP allowing farmers to consider alternative land uses. Irish farmers can respond to this need by growing a variety of energy crops to produce indigenous biofuels and biomass. Today's conference will focus on the opportunities to produce bioenergy across the electricity, heat and transport sectors".

Minister Wallace referred to the publication at the weekend of the 'National Bioenergy Action Plan' to increase the deployment of Ireland's bioenergy resources to 2020. The Plan sets out ambitious targets which should stimulate and accommodate indigenous production and details a range of coherent actions across the agriculture, enterprise, transport, environment and energy sectors. The Minister added, "my Department is committed to implementing the measures in the Agriculture sector to support production of energy crops, increased afforestation and research and development".

The Minister went on to say that overall responsibility for energy policy rests with the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, who is leading a cross- Departmental, cross agency approach in developing and implementing renewable energy policy. The Bioenergy Action Plan recognises the need for multi-agency collaboration and the Government is committed to working with all relevant stakeholders to realise the full potential of the bioenergy sector.

Minister Wallace pointed out that €14 million is being provided in funding over the period 2007-2009 to incentivise farmers to grow energy crops. The measures include €6m over three years to support a new national payment of €80 per hectare for growing energy crops and €8m for a new Bioenergy Scheme to provide establishment grants to farmers for up to 50% of the costs of planting willow and miscanthus.

Concluding the Minister said she was satisfied there are significant opportunities for farmers and foresters in Ireland to diversify into energy crops. This will help stimulate diversification of farm incomes, generate sustainable employment and contribute to rural development. While the sector is at the early stages of development, significant progress has already being made. The development of bioenergy is and will continue to be a priority for Government.

7 March, 2007

Date Released: 07 March 2007