Paul Kenny, CEO, Tipperary Energy Agency says farmers, often criticised for contributing so much CO2 to the environment, can quickly become more sustainable and even add to the clean energy sector in Ireland. An upcoming major conference will explore the solutions now available for farmers. 

Paul Kenny, CEO, Tipperary Energy Agency

There’s no point denying agri-emissions. The agricultural sector in Ireland is a major player in the exploitation and protection of the Irish rural environment. Traditionally the Agri sector has not been viewed in a positive light when it comes to the drivers of climate change. Bovine methane emissions and ammonia from slurries and fertiliser production and its use are some of the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses in Ireland. In fact, Ireland’s Agri sector is responsible for almost 20 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gasses out of Ireland’s current total of 60 MT. 

“CO2 and equivalent gasses are leading to catastrophic changes to our biosphere.”

That is where we are now, and no matter how many people deny it, it is a scientific certainty (which is a rare thing!) that CO2 and equivalent gasses are leading to catastrophic changes to our biosphere. Also, Ireland, located at the periphery of Europe imports more than 85% of its energy from abroad leading to vast wealth transfers from the state to foreign-owned energy companies.

However, it need not be so. Farmers are business people; they will grow crops, produce dairy or raise animals to maximise return on their efforts and capital. We need to align the goals of economic performance, social improvement and environmental stewardship by incentivising food production while minimising energy inputs and pollution. There are three key methods that can improve the sustainability of Irish farming.

Resource efficiency and land management

Teagasc have extensively studied and evaluated the improvement of specific sectors from tillage to dairy, and pigs to poultry. There are sixteen fact sheets are available on the Teagasc website.

“Agriculture is often spoken about regarding emissions, but rarely in the potential for the future of energy production.”

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The production of bio-energy

A new renewable heat incentive is due shortly that will incentivise the bio-energy supply chain to produce sustainable energy from sustainable local sources. This will allow farmers produce energy crops for local use in heating buildings and industrial facilities. These plants can displace higher emissions agriculture for higher revenue energy crops and provide an economical and environmental return. 

“A renewable electricity support scheme should allow farmers install solar panels for generating local sustainable solar energy.”

Renewable electricity support scheme

Also the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is working on a renewable electricity support project, which, if designed in the right way, should allow farmers and local citizens install solar panels for generating local sustainable solar energy. 

“There will also be a large trade exhibition on the day and practical demonstrations of energy crops, wood chip boilers, solar and wind power.”

The annual ‘Energy in Agriculture’ event

Tipperary is at the heart of Irish agriculture, and Tipperary now and into the future will supply the urban parts of Ireland with energy as well as food in the form of renewables. Tipperary County Council recognised the need to engage with and support the agri-sector plan for being more energy efficient, more sustainable and take the opportunity of Ireland’s renewable energy resources in bioenergy, wind and now solar. 

The Tipperary County Council and Tipperary Energy Agency in conjunction with the Irish Farmers Association and Teagasc’s energy and agricultural expertise have teamed up with Gurteen Agricultural College, Ballingarry, Roscrea to host the Annual Energy in Agriculture event on the 22nd of August, 2017. The conference will host over twenty speakers across farming sectors and support industries, technology demonstrations, and one-on-one clinics on energy, tax, and legal issues. People can discuss all aspects of agriculture related energy efficiency and renewable energy. There will also be a large trade exhibition on the day and practical demonstrations of energy crops, wood chip boilers, solar and wind power.

“Future bio-energy and solar financial and policy supports will be of significant benefit to rural Ireland.”

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The rise of the rural economy

Agriculture is often spoken about regarding emissions, but rarely in the potential for the future of energy production. I firmly believe that just as rural area’s supply food into cities, the future rural economy will have a significant opportunity in clean, green and economically sustainable energy supply. The IFA and Friends of the Earth recently called for identical supports for renewable energy in the Agri sector. This conference and exhibition are aimed to accelerate the transition of our country to one of low carbon but also one that is economically vibrant. Future bio-energy and solar financial and policy supports will be of significant benefit to rural Ireland.

The event is free to attend and is sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and Gas Networks Ireland. There are some trade stands available for exhibitors wishing to demonstrate their products or services. It will be held on the 22nd of August, at Gurteen Agricultural College, Ballingarry, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. For more visit www.energyinagriculture.ie.

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