Opening Address by Teagasc Director, Professor Gerry Boyle to the Teagasc Nation
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to extend a warm welcome to you all for this, the first joint National Bioenergy Conference hosted by Teagasc and the Irish Bioenergy Association. I would like to extend a particularly warm welcome to all of our speakers, and especially to those who have traveled from outside of Ireland for this event.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to extend a warm welcome to you all for this, the first joint National Bioenergy Conference hosted by Teagasc and the Irish Bioenergy Association. I would like to extend a particularly warm welcome to all of our speakers, and especially to those who have traveled from outside of Ireland for this event.
There are several dividends from bioenergy. Its production makes available alternative land uses for farmers. Its processing can generate sustainable employment opportunities in rural communities. Bioenergy production also has significant environmental benefits, at least for the so called second and third generation technologies, in that there is likely to be a net savings in carbon emissions relative to the use of fossil fuels.
The bioenergy sector can also improve our national competitiveness as we will become less reliant on energy imports as the sector develops. This will help decrease our vulnerability to fluctuations in energy prices caused by decreasing world fossil fuel supplies and increased global demand. As a rough guide, each 1% of farmed land devoted to biofuels could supply 1% of the national energy requirement.
Thus there are several clear strategic benefits that will flow from the exploitation of bioenergy: an extra source of sustainable profits for farmers; new sustainable sources of employment for rural communities; reduced carbon emissions; and greater security of fuel supply.
We are living through extraordinary times. The nature of agricultural activity will undergo profound change in the years ahead. In the future, our land resources will not only generate food and animal feed but in addition fuel and fibre.
As a research and development organisation Teagasc, in collaboration with relevant partners and especially with industry, will play its role in realizing the multifaceted opportunities that our biosector has to offer.
Teagasc is carrying out research on growing energy crops at the Oak Park Crops Research Centre. There is also at present extensive research taking place on quality biomass production, pelleting and drying of biomass in Oak Park. We have plans for the development of a biofuels’ plant test facility in collaboration with industry. Teagasc colleagues at Johnstown Castle are, among other exciting issues, researching, the carbon sequestration of various crops, including grazed grass which will provide invaluable information in the context of determining agriculture’s appropriate role in meeting the recently announced national emission targets.
My colleagues John Finnan, Bernard Rice, John Carroll and Gary Lanigan are available at the Teagasc stand to discuss these issues during the networking breaks where you can also visit a number of trade stands involved in the bioenergy sector.
The Teagasc Forestry Development unit is not just researching and advising landowners on how best to grow trees to produce quality timber, but they are also actively involved in exploring the options that forestry can play in the bioenergy industry. My colleague Nuala Ni Fhlatharta and her team will be happy to talk to you about these and other issues throughout the day.
The production of biofuels is expected to quadruple in the coming years.
This development, while positive on many levels, has also raised serious concerns that require to be addressed. Poorly managed production can increase rather than decrease greenhouse gas emissions. We know about the negative effects on soil protection, water management, bio-diversity, air protection and the world’s forests. Clearly, production must be compatible with our overall environment objectives. First generation biofuels also present a real moral dilemma in the substitution of fuel for food.
In the course of the day these, and many other issues, will be addressed by our speakers and their contributions will I expect attract animated debate from you.
The following session will focus on the liquid biofuels with an emphasis on the full value chain – from the field to the forecourt. We will hear about the Swedish and the rollout of Cork County Councils biofuel vehicle project. We will also get an insight into what’s happening in the UK and, in particular, the numerous alternative products which can be manufactured from biomass. The final session looks at biomass from combustion to construction with a focus on hemp, the bioenergy scheme and the land requirement to meet our policy targets. We will get clarification on the role of animal byproducts for anaerobic digestion. We will also get some practical feedback from a hotel manager who has installed a biomass boiler together with the two companies involved in both the biomass supply chain and boiler installation.
I am particularly pleased that Minister Mary Wallace, who has responsibility for forestry and bioenergy, has been able to join us today and to bring us up to date on her Department’s initiatives in the bioenergy sphere.
Before I conclude, I’d like to make a few points on the important topic of carbon emissions and agriculture’s contribution to their abatement.
Agriculture’s contribution to carbon emissions can be minimised through the deployment of technology, especially in the field of animal nutrition. It can also play a potential large role through the provision of carbon sinks through afforestation and other sources, such as, grazed grass. Finally, as I’ve already emphasised, it can secure net carbon savings through the production of biofuels and bioproducts.
However, the contribution that agriculture should or ought to make to the delivery of national emissions’ targets needs to take adequate cognisance of the contribution that the sector has made to the build up of emissions over time and to the potential that the sector has for growth into the future.
The fact is that agriculture’s contribution to the production of carbon emissions has been effectively nil since 1990. Between 1990 and 2007 cattle numbers only grew by 3%; estimated emissions from agriculture fell by 3%, while estimated emissions from the transport sector grew by 166%.
But the appropriate contribution from agriculture to the achievement of the national carbon reduction target must also take into account the growth potential of the sector. For the first time in over 20 years, the sector faces a prospect of growth, especially in the milk and cereals’ sector. This prospect is also supported by the prevailing policy stances in the EU regarding both of these sectors. At a time when our non-agricultural economy is heading into a period of much slower growth, agriculture holds out the prospect of significant growth. I believe that there is considerable scope for expansion, especially in milk production, as well as a desire by many farmers to make it happen. Between now and 2020 a growth rate of 4% per annum is possible. And while this performance would be well below what was achieved in the years leading up to the quota’s introduction, it would still imply about a billion euro extra in the value of milk output by 2020.
This potential growth will need to be factored into the determination of the sector’s contribution to the achievement of the emissions’ target.
Like all of you I am looking forward to a productive, informative and enjoyable day. I wish you well.