Jobs opportunities for Ireland’s bioenergy sector

15 Jun 2011

Ireland’s bioenergy sector could have the potential to create thousands of green jobs across the country, particularly in the biogas area, according to speakers at a bioenergy conference held in Dublin today.

The Business of Bio-Energy conference, which was hosted by Byrne Wallace and RSM Farrell Grant Sparks in Dublin, looked specifically at Ireland’s biogas sector.

Sean Wallace, a partner at Byrne Wallace, compared Ireland’s “underdeveloped” biogas sector with that of Germany, which has 4,700 biogas plants in operation and more than 350,000 people employed in the sector.

He argued that Ireland could aspire to have at least 1,000 small anaerobic digestion units in operation. Anaerobic digestion is a natural process of decomposition when organic matter, such as grass, is broken down into its simpler chemical components in the absence of oxygen. This digestion process produces biogas, a mixture of methane and other gases.

“Generating biogas from grass silage does not require the use of arable land, it produces a green fuel that can be transported in the gas network and used in transport, such as buses, or to generate heat and electricity, and enables Irish farmers to contribute towards Ireland’s renewable energy targets, while generating additional income from the sale of the feed stock, and subsequent sale of biogas,” said Wallace.

Bioenergy and creating jobs

Ian Duffy, a partner at RSM Farrell Grant Sparks, also spoke about the possibilities for Ireland’s emerging bioenergy sector.

“As an industry, it has the potential to create thousands of direct and indirect jobs. In Germany, there are currently 367,400 people employed in the sector alone, which represents an increase of 129pc since 2004. In the US, it is expected that 800,000 new jobs will be created directly and indirectly by 2022.

“With long-term strategic planning and cohesive co-operation between the State, regulators and industry, the bioenergy market can be a positive contributor to the economy, to jobs and to reducing Ireland’s dependency on fossil fuels,” he added.

Other speakers at the event included the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Simon Coveney, TD; Jer Bergin, head of climate change and renewable energy at the Irish Farmers Association; and Aidan Corbett, a senior business analyst at NTR.

Photo: Farm-based maize silage digester located near Neumünsterin in Germany

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic