Farm incomes in Ireland are in decline and many farmers would operate at a loss in the absence of subsidies. Agriculture is responsible for 27% of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions and is the largest contributing sector. Penetration of renewable energy in the heat and transport sectors is falling short of targets, and there is no clear plan for achieving them. The anaerobic digestion of grass to produce biogas or biomethane is put forward as a multifaceted solution, which could help meet energy and emissions targets, reduce dependence on imported energy, and provide additional farm income. This paper addresses the economic viability of such a system. Grass biogas/biomethane fares poorly under the current combined heat and power tariff structure, which is geared toward feedstock that attracts a gate fee. Tariff structures similar to those used in other countries are necessary for the industry to develop. Equally, regulation should be implemented to allow injection of biomethane into the gas grid in Ireland. Blends of natural gas and biomethane can be sold, offering a cost-competitive green fuel. Sale as a renewable transport fuel could allow profitability for the farmer and savings for the consumer, but suffers due to the lack of a market. Under current conditions, the most economically viable outlet for grass biomethane is sale as a renewable heating fuel. The key to competitiveness is the existing natural gas infrastructure that enables distribution of grass biomethane, and the renewable energy targets that allow renewable fuels to compete against each other.
Bibliographical noteCopyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment