Policy initiatives and activities undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on the production of energy crops include:
Research and development;
Financial support for the growing of short rotation coppice willow;
Administration of the EU Aid for Energy Crops Scheme
Financial support for development of the willow chip supply chain;
Proposed capital and marketing support under the draft Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2007-13, subject to EU Commission approval.
Policy initiatives and activities undertaken on the use of farm waste for energy include:
A proposed research and development programme and associated technology transfer activities;
Proposals for an Agri-food Waste Challenge Fund, co-financed under the EU Competitiveness Structural Funds Programme 2007-2013. This Programme is currently subject to a public consultation and final decisions on Programme.
All of these initiatives and activities are described within DARD’s recently published Renewable Energy Action Plan. This Plan seeks to help farmers, landowners and wider rural community capitalise on the opportunities presented by renewable energy technologies.
No formal assessment has been made of the levels of farm-based activity in renewable energy production in Northern Ireland. However, since 2003, DARD has committed a total of £4 million in grant assistance to a range of renewable energy projects and technologies across rural Northern Ireland. This includes support for short rotation coppice willow, with plantings expected to reach 800 hectares in 2007. DARD has just published a Renewable Energy Action Plan to assist the land based and rural sector to realise the potential of renewable energy in a balanced and sustainable way.