€10 million package ‘earmarked for on-farm renewable energy’

The inclusion of a €10 million allocation to support on-farm renewable energy investments in the July Stimulus Package has been welcomed by the Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

Commenting last night, Thursday, July 23, on the government’s publication of the July Stimulus Package, MREF chairman Pat Smith said that the specific allocation of €10 million towards fisheries and on-farm renewable energy investments was welcome.

He added that it is “a recognition of the massive role farmers and the agricultural community can play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions by adopting micro-generation and helping Ireland’s transition to a green, sustainable economy”.

Smith said: “The monies announced must be new and the details around the scheme of supports for fisheries and on-farm renewable energy projects need to be published as a matter of urgency.

He said that farmers “feared that this announcement was simply a rehash” of the €10 million Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) announced for renewable energy projects last year.

This scheme, he claimed, was “not taken up by farmers for many reasons including poor promotion, unnecessary restrictions on the sizes of systems that would qualify, excessive bureaucracy and delays in getting approvals through”.

Also, thousands of progressive farmers were excluded from qualifying as they had already used their TAMS allocation.

The MREF estimates that less than 5% of the €10 million funds allocated for on-farm renewables last year were drawn down “which can only be seen as failure of the scheme in this previous incarnation”. This newly announced scheme cannot be allowed repeat the failures of last year’s TAMS scheme for renewable energy projects, Smith stressed.

He said: “The success of any new scheme will be judged by the level of take up by farm families and Minister [for Agriculture Dara] Calleary must ensure that the scheme works for the maximum number of farmers and that the full allocation is taken up within the next 12 months.”

Concluding, Smith said: “Supports for renewable energy investments should also be extended out to SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and the wider business sectors as soon as possible.”