Out-Law Analysis 2 min. read

Biomethane production can help Ireland reach its net zero targets

Biomethane 1200 x 630

Biomethane is a renewable gas which, unlike some other renewable gas forms, is available today to decarbonise Ireland’s energy system and help the country reach its net zero targets.

Unlike other renewable gases, where further development in production and scale up technology is needed, biomethane can be used in Ireland with very little modification required to national pipeline networks and related industrial and residential applications. The emergence of hydrogen as a vital net zero tool cannot be overlooked as it gains credibility and confidence in its production and uses. However, biomethane is a far more immediate and scalable renewable gas.

Investors can take some comfort in the fact that the Irish government’s 2023 Climate Action Plan (CAP) contains targets for biomethane, including production of 1 terawatt hour (TWh) of biomethane and 20 anaerobic digestion (AD) plants by 2025 – increasing to 5.7 TWh of biomethane and 200 AD plants by 2030. The CAP also establishes a biomethane working group that will develop a national biomethane strategy and introduce a Renewable Heat Obligation Scheme by 2024 to incentivise the production of indigenously produced biomethane.

The benefit to Ireland’s climate and net zero goals through indigenously produced biomethane could be significant. If Ireland reaches its target production level of 5.7 TWh, according to a recent report (48 pages / 2.80MB PDF) published by Gas Networks Ireland (GNI), this would result in a carbon abatement of 1.5 megatons of CO2, and a significant a reduction of sectoral emissions targets.

In addition, indigenously produced biomethane can help promote Ireland’s circular economy through a reduction in Ireland’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2022, 38.4% of GHG emissions were from the agriculture sector, and so the potential to develop our circular economy and reduce GHGs through biomethane production is massive. Key Irish agri-food companies are already promoting the use of biomethane in the country through the Renewable Gas Forum Ireland. The forum’s ‘Project Clover’ is a collaboration of leading agri-food companies, who have declared their commitment to large scale biomethane production in Ireland.

Ireland is not alone in its biomethane production ambitions, as biomethane production is a key pillar in the EU’s REPowerEU plan to decarbonise Europe, which aims for the production of 35 billion cubic metres (bcm) of the gas per year by 2030. Biomethane production in Europe could also help to bolster the EU’s energy security by allowing the bloc to phase out its dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

The European Commission has already begun to implement a number of initiatives aimed at increasing biomethane production in the EU, including the publishing of a staff working document on biomethane production and launching the Biomethane Industrial Partnership in 2022. This partnership aims to support the EU’s 35 bcm biomethane production goal by promoting active engagement between the Commission, EU countries, industry representatives, feedstock producers, academics and NGOs.

GNI and other bodies have brought a significant amount of urgency and integrated thinking to encourage biomethane production and commercialisation. There is a need for relatively modest clarity and regulatory support including a commitment to capital funding, provision of a subsidy for feedstock providers and early adoption of a Renewable Heat Obligation.

Co-written by Shani Stallard of Pinsent Masons.

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