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Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH)

Ray Langton, SEAI Programme Manager of the SSRH, answered the following questions on the SSRH as it applies to the poultry industry

Q: What is the SSRH?

A: In essence, the SSRH is aimed at promoting the conversion from fossil fuels to renewables for the creation of heat. The aim is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, such as kerosene or Liquid Propane Gas, through the use of renewable heat sources such as wood chips or wood pellets. 

Q: Who is eligible for SSRH?

A: Any poultry producer using a fossil fuel for the production of heat on farm, may be eligible. This means it applies to existing and new producers. For existing producers, the quantity of heat being produced on farm can be calculated, this will then influence the decision on whether the SSRH is for you or not.

For a new producer, this is a ‘counter-factual approach’. In other words, if a person is putting up a new poultry unit, where the default may be to install a new gas or kerosene boiler; they may decide to install a biomass boiler. This will then make them eligible for the scheme.

In terms of poultry producers who this may suit, broiler production has seen the most applications due to the high volume of heat used on farm. It is important to note, while other sectors may not have applied, it does not mean they are not eligible. Any sector using high volumes of fossil fuels for heat production should look at the scheme. For example, turkey brooding using high volumes of heat all year round would be eligible. The typical heat usage on farm has been within Tier 2 – please see the table below.

Q: What level of heat must be used to apply?

A: Firstly, a producer must be reasonably efficient at their industry. SEAI have received benchmarks from Teagasc on the average Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which will determine the efficiency of a unit. SEAI will look at number of birds produced per annum and heat usage on farm primarily to establish if the farm is operating at an efficient level. The average heat usage per bird is 1.227kWh/bird. This can be worked out from the heat being used on farm and number of birds being produced. For more information on this contact Rebecca Tierney via email. (Rebecca.tierney@teagasc.ie)

The SSRH is a government scheme; therefore, you must comply with all state regulations surrounding planning permission and environmental regulations. It is crucial that any producer intending to apply for the SSRH is aware of the regulation surrounding planning permission for fuel stores or boiler rooms. It is also very important to look at the EPA license in place for the farm and check the fuel allowance for the unit.  

Q: What are the first steps to check your eligibility for the SSRH?

A: The first thing to do is to understand how much are you spending on your current heat source, i.e. kerosene or LPG; per annum. This is a matter of looking at your fuel bills for the 12 month period. You can then convert this figure into the quantity of heat. SEAI have conversion tables available on their website to do this. https://www.seai.ie/publications/Commercial-Fuel-Cost-Comparison.pdf

Once you have this quantity of heat, i.e. the MWh of heat being used on farm; you can work out the level of tariffs you can expect from SEAI should you apply for the scheme.

The next step is to speak to a number of suppliers of boilers and the relevant heat source. You must consider the cost of switching your system over to a biomass system. It also important to consider whether you will require a new boiler room, new fuel store, and/or a new bin for pellets.

TierLower Limit (MWh/yr)Upper limit (MWh/yr)Biomass Heating Systems Tariff (c/kWh)Anaerobic Digestio Heating Systems (c/k/Wh)
 1 0 300 5.66 2.95
 2 300  1,000  3.02  2.95 
 3 1,000  2,400  0.50  0.50 
 4 2,400  10,000  0.50  0.00 
 5 10,000  50,000  0.37  0.00 
 6 50,000  N/A  0.00  0.00 

Q: Can a producer avail of a TAMS grant for the installation of a biomass boiler and avail of the tariffs from SSRH?

A: No, a producer cannot avail of two types of state funding for the one project.

Q: Following the initial investigation, what is the next step for the application process for the SSRH?

A: It is essential to appoint a design engineer, specialising in energy, who will have knowledge of all aspects of the project; i.e. planning permission, heating design, environmental licensing and safety parameters. The design engineer will be required to submit the design of the plant being installed; the heat load required to be carried, etc.. The formal application can then be made to the SEAI to seek payments.

Q: Why is the EPA license an important part of the application process?

A: Any producer with greater than 40,000 birds must have an EPA license in place. On the EPA license, an applicant must check if their license will be impacted by a change of fuel type being used on farm. If this is impacted, a license review or new license may be required. While, this does not have to be done prior to application but it must be done before an applicant will be placed on the payment cycle.

Ray also mentioned it is important to be aware of any planning permission required for a boiler store, fuel store, etc., which may be required. This will depend on the size of the building required.

Q: How long does the application process take once the application is submitted?

A: If all documents are in order, the application process through to approval, i.e. a letter of offer, should take 2 – 3 months. It is crucial that no installation occurs prior to receiving the letter of offer. The letter of offer is valid for one year.

Four weeks prior to the completion of the installation, SEAI would ask to be informed and for a completion file to be assembled. This will include the design engineer including the completeness of the project – has the license been reviewed, is the correct planning in place, is the boiler commission, etc..  Once the file is complete, an inspection is carried out. Once this is successful, typically 4 – 6 weeks after this, the applicant will be put on the payment cycle.

A ‘Zero Meter’ reading will be taken on the day. This will determine the figure from which payments will begin. It will also set the quarterly date, on which readings must be submitted for payment. An annual figure for fuel must be submitted to ensure no fuel is being used unnecessarily.

SEAI understand that the initial applications took longer than expected. It was due to misunderstandings in relation to licensing requirements and planning permission requirements.

If you would like more information on the SSRH, be sure to take a look at the Let’s Talk Poultry webinar below; where Ray and his colleague Denis Neary, along with Martin Dempsey discuss the scheme.