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Connick Presents Certificates Under New Wood Fuel Quality Assurance Scheme

Seán Connick, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with responsibility for forestry, today presented Certificates to the first companies to become members of the new Wood Fuel Quality Assurance Scheme.

Speaking at the presentation, which took place during his visit to the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co. Kildare, the Minister of State said "Wood fuel is becoming more and more popular for home heating in Ireland. Over recent years many homeowners, hotels and other establishments have made the switch to wood to replace imported oil and coal.  The schemes run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland have provided much of the impetus for this change".

Welcoming this development, Minister of State Connick continued "Switching to wood is a good move as it will save on heating bills, but it is also good news for forest owners and those in the business of supplying wood fuels. Owners now have expanding local markets for first thinnings, which are now coming on-stream in ever increasing quantities. In fact there are plentiful supplies of wood fuel in forests which have been established over the past two decades under the State funded forestry schemes. National investment in these schemes since 2000 is over €1.3 billion. Using wood for heating also stacks up in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and how these contribute to climate change.  Reducing Ireland's dependence on imported fuels and securing indigenous sources are key elements of national policy and wood has an important role in helping to meet these goals".

Presenting the awards, Minister of State Connick welcomed the initiative of the companies and bodies involved in developing the quality assurance scheme, saying "I want to congratulate the companies who have got together with the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Waterford Institute of Technology and forestry officials from my own Department in collaboration with the Irish Bioenergy Association, in developing this Scheme over the last year.  For wood fuel to compete in the marketplace, it needs to be of a quality that is fit for purpose and inspires consumer confidence.  This new Scheme is an important step in that process. It is for these reasons that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has provided grant aid in support of the development and promotion of the scheme".

Note to editors

The Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) scheme is operated by the Irish Bioenergy Association. It is a quality assurance scheme for wood fuels - wood pellets, wood chips, wood logs and wood briquettes. Certification of companies which apply to join and use the WFQA logo is carried out by the National Standards Authority of Ireland. WFQA assures customers that products have been independently tested, are consistent and quality assured in terms of moisture content, ash content, size and the source of the fuel.

The wood fuel industry has grown significantly over the past five years, and has penetrated into households, commercial premises, government organisations (including the Dáil which will soon be heated by wood chip and pellets) and industrial operations. The current demand is estimated to be 30,000 tonnes of wood pellets and 75,000 tonnes of wood chips annually. This largely indigenous industry provides sustainable fuel for heating and electricity and is a significant employer - especially in rural areas. Throughout 2009, the wood fuel sector has come together to form this quality assurance scheme and certification to ensure the continued growth of this market.

Through the use of wood fuels Ireland can effectively reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels, providing employment, improving security of supply, improving Ireland's trade balance and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The WFQA was put together through an initiative by the wood fuel industry in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Irish Bioenergy Association, Teagasc and Waterford Institute of Technology.

For further information contact Noel Gavigan at the Irish Bioenergy Association (noelgavigan@irbea.org) 087 6845977 or 057 8641044.

Date Released: 21 September 2010