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Minister Smith highlights Biomass potential at conference in Cavan

Mr Brendan Smith T.D., Minister Of State At The Department Of Agriculture And Food Today Highlighted The Important Contribution Agriculture And Forestry Can Make To Developing Ireland's Renewable Energy Resources.

Minister Smith Was Speaking In Ballyhaise Agricultural College In Cavan At The Official Opening Of A Biomass Conference, Demonstration And Renewable Energy Exhibition. The Conference Was Organised By Teagasc In Association With Cavan - Monaghan Leader Group To Explore The Potential For Developing Biomass And Biofuels Resources In The North - East Region. "I Know There Is A Growing Interest In The North East Region In Diversifying Into The Renewable Energy Sector And I Am Confident Today's Discussions Will Give A Valuable Insight Into Some Of The Opportunities In This Area".

Minister Smith Emphasised Why The Agri- Food And Forestry Sectors Have Such An Important Role To Play In This Area. "Agriculture And Forestry Are The Source Of Most Of The Raw Materials For Bio-Energy. Opportunities Arise In Utilising Our Forestry Resources And In Growing Biomass For Heat And Electricity Generation. We Can Also Grow Other Field Crops For Bio-Diesel And Bio-Ethanol Production."

He Added That Interest In Renewable Energy Is Gaining Momentum At Farm Level As Farmers Move To Diversify And Look For New Opportunities And Market Outlets In Producing Bio-Fuels And Biomass.

"I Believe We Can Rapidly Develop This Area For The Benefit Of Farmers And Rural Communities And I Saw Clear Evidence At Last Week's Ploughing Championships Of Farmers' Interest In Energy Crops".

Minister Smith Emphasised That Farmers Will Only Produce Energy Crops In The Expectation Of A Good Economic Return And Improving Profitability At Farm Level Is Essential To Develop The Sector. He Said The Recently Announced Excise Relief Scheme Would Help Drive Demand For The Production Of Energy Crops Over The Next Five Years And Provide Farmers With A Stable Market.

Minister Smith Added That A Number Of Policy Initiatives Are Now Underway To Increase Market Penetration Of Biofuels And Biomass In Ireland. He Highlighted The Commitment In The Recently Published Green Paper To Develop Ireland's Renewable Energy Resources Including Bio-Fuels And Biomass. "Renewable Energy Will Be A Strong Feature Of Future Policy Developments And Publication Of The Green Paper Gives Farmers The Opportunity To Have Their Say In The Policy Formation Process. I Am Confident That Farmers Will Grasp This Opportunity As We Work Toward Securing Maximum Benefit For Farm Enterprises From The Move To Renewable Energy."

Concluding Minister Smith Welcomed The Recent Establishment Of A Ministerial Taskforce On Bio-Energy, To Bring Forward A Comprehensive National Bio-Energy Action Plan By End 2006.

5 October, 2006

Date Released: 05 October 2006