The Irish BioEnergy Association (IrBEA) will be posing the above question this Thursday at a conference whereby economists, policy makers and industry representatives will thrash out whether bioenergy does, in fact, have the potential to create jobs and increase economic activity in Ireland.
The all-day event will take place in the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise, on 17 February.
Declan Meally, SEAI programme director, will open the conference, while Prof Richard Tol of the ESRI will then cover the economic potentials of bioenergy and renewable energy. Joe O’Carroll of Imperative Energy will explore the topic of low-cost policy instruments to drive the bioenergy market.
A case study looking at rural development in Spain and job creation will be given by Marcos Martin, vice-president, AEBIOM (European Biomass Association). Meanwhile, Victor Buchanaan, CEO, Bioflame, will look at how to win investment for bioenergy projects. Bord na Móna’s John O’Halloran will also talk about the co-firing experience at Edenderry Powerstation.
Afternoon break-out sessions will cover anaerobic digestion, wood fuels and transport biofuels. In this last area, Martin Tangney will look at producing biobutanol from whiskey distill waste.
Others topics the event will cover include addressing challenges for bioenergy projects and developing technologies to optimise economic value from biomass resources.
According to the IrBEA, bioenergy, if exploited in Ireland, can create 13,000 extra jobs by 2020. In terms of fuel cost savings, the organisation says bioenergy delivers up to 50pc savings when compared with fossil fuels. And with Ireland currently spending more than €6.5bn to pay for imported oil, coal and gas, the IrBEA says the country can increase its self-sufficiency by replacing imported fossil fuels with bioenergy.
It says biofuels will also feed back into the economy, asserting that when €100 is spent on oil or gas, that at least €90 leaves the Irish economy. With bioenergy, however, the IrBEA says all of that €100 spend will stay in the Irish economy.