Is there a place for biofuels in Ireland’s future energy strategy?

We catch up with David Blevings of the Northern Ireland Oil Federation (NIOF) and OFTEC Ireland manager, for his thoughts on the latest progress. 

The opportunity for biofuels in Ireland's future energy strategy.

The big ‘advantage’ that Ireland has in the push to include biofuels in future energy strategies North and South of the border is the size of the liquid fuel sector. In NI, liquid fuel is used by c.60% of consumers and in ROI its c.40%. That’s 1.2 million homes relying on a liquid fuel. Add to that, the low levels of energy efficiency in the households, lower levels of income (NI) and the high cost of retrofits, and you can see the dilemma that faces the Governments in both jurisdictions.

The liquid fuel sector is lobbying hard, and recent developments are encouraging. Ahead of the Department for Economy (DfE), Energy Branch heat consultation we provided up-to-date information on biofuels, and they readily admitted that there is no one solution for decarbonisation of heat in Northern Ireland, indicating that all no and low carbon solutions will be required to meet the carbon reductions that have now been signed into law under the climate act.

Due to there being no Stormont Executive in NI, the DfE has advised that the heat consultation, that was scheduled for summer 2023, is likely to slip back to the autumn if not into early 2024. On one hand that is negative, but work continues, and a positive for our sector is that DfE have established a biofuels stakeholder group (including OFTEC and NIOF) and the first meeting is planned for the end of July.

A big statement

DfE is developing a call for evidence (CfE) on the roles that HVO and renewable biofuels will play in decarbonising heat in Northern Ireland’s homes and buildings. One very positive comment in the brief for the biofuels group is: “Properties that use kerosene or LPG could make an immediate transition to low carbon heating as biofuels are considered carbon neutral”.

The comment that biofuels are considered carbon neutral is a very big statement and shows clearly the positive approach the Department are taking to including biofuels in the decarbonisation process.

In the Republic, we met with representatives from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to discuss incorporating HVO and biofuels into the Dwelling Energy Assessment Procedure (DEAP software – similar to SAP in GB). This would allow energy assessors to choose HVO in a biofuel-heated home as, currently, that option does not exist.

The meeting was constructive, and SEAI are willing to look at incorporating HVO into the software for a 100% fuelled HVO boiler as long as we can demonstrate compliance with RED II sustainability criteria for HVO used for heating. We expect further discussions with a view to HVO appearing in DEAP by the end of this year. This is good news.

Making the case for HVO

Like GB, we already have a number of homes and commercial properties locally running on HVO with demand for more to be converted, as businesses and consumers see an ‘easy’ route to decarbonising their homes and businesses without huge capital spend on retrofit works. Let’s hope Government listens to the increasing volume of politicians, consumers and businesses asking for inclusion of HVO in energy policy as an option for decarbonisation.