Speech by the Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny T.D.at the opening of the Biomass Energy Solution Plant, Aurivo, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon.Monday 19th May 2014.
Ladies and Gentleman, it is a great pleasure to be here with you this morning, to officially open this Biomass Energy Plant.
I would like to thank Aurivo’s CEO, Aaron Forde, for extending the invitation to join you.
Aurivo is a relatively new identity carrying forward the long history of the co-operatives in this region.
With 10,000 members, over 1,000 dairy farmers and over 700 employees, Aurivo is the largest agricultural co-operative in the west of Ireland and the development that brings us here today – the new biomass plant – is a very significant and welcome development.
The co-operatives were initially formed to improve the viability of the local farming communities. They created employment in rural areas, and created stable economic activities where emigration was high.
They are the embodiment of making recovery local. That ethos is still what drives co-operatives today, community -sustainability – progression.
Aurivo have recently launched a joint Farm Focus initiative with Teagasc. This will focus on encouraging and assisting new entrants to milk production and on providing targeted advice for farmers who are keen to increase herd size and milk output.
This is significant in preparing for the ending of milk quotas. With milk suppliers across 12 counties in Ireland I am sure you expect supply here to grow when this happens next year.
Milk accounts for some 30% of Ireland’s gross agriculture output. It is an export driven sector with over 85% of dairy products exported.
The milk sector has great potential. Earlier this month the Chinese authorities announced results of an audit of Ireland’s dairy sector, which means that Irish plants have been found to fully meet the standards of China’s new food safety laws, one of the few Countries in the world to achieve full compliance.
This approval will allow the Irish dairy sector to build on its formidable reputation in international markets, and in the increasingly important Chinese market. It will enable it to further capitalise on Ireland’s reputation for green, efficient, sustainable, high quality dairy production.
Aurivo is also very firmly a globally focused agri-business and exports to 46 countries worldwide, from Afghanistan to the UK.
This Plant has been manufacturing dairy ingredients since 1972 and I understand it has now become the first large scale milk processer in the country to switch to biomass fuel as a source of energy.
I understand that this new wood fuelled energy system will cut carbon emissions in half, through a 70% reduction of heavy oil usage, and will result in significant energy savings.
This shows great commitment on behalf of Aurivo to the Bord Bia Origin Green sustainability charter.
Energy is the lifeblood of the economy and is a sector that is evolving at a dramatic rate.
Our dependency on imported fossil fuels underlines the immediate and long term imperatives of enhancing energy security, reducing price volatility and ensuring energy sustainability at competitive prices for both individuals and businesses. How we do so is critical.
Renewable energy is playing a key role in shaping Ireland’s long term energy future and is critical to delivering the Government’s policy goals of secure, clean and affordable energy supplies.
Bioenergy is exceptionally flexible and has a role to play across all energy sectors and can contribute to security of energy supply and underpin competitiveness and sustainability.
A successful bioenergy sector also presents enterprise development opportunities, can support jobs, contribute to rural development and will have a positive impact on the environment.
Critically, though, it is an energy source that we have the capacity to develop here and one where we have exceptional natural advantages.
We have a suitable climate for forestry and for growing energy crops and we have a large amount of suitable agricultural land available for new forests or for conversion to energy crops.
It is, however, a complex sector which demands coherence across a range of policy areas and actors.
The forthcoming bioenergy strategy, which will be published in a matter of weeks, will set out the actions required to better support this growing sector.
As it stands, the switch from fossil fuels to biomass already makes commercial sense for a number of large energy users and I’m very pleased, therefore, that Aurivo is taking the step of investing in this bioenergy plant to replace the use of imported oil with locally grown and sourced biomass.
Though initially the plant will provide heat for use by the factory, I understand that it will be further developed into a Combined Heat and Power plant, whereby it will also produce renewable electricity for export to the grid and make the best possible use of the biomass fuel.
Our country is still recovering. Government wants to make recovery local, particularly by supporting Irish business to win abroad and, in doing so, creating jobs at home.
The Government’s primary objective is to get Ireland back to work. We are continuing to work tirelessly to grow employment.
As I have said since Government took office in 2011, our aim is to be the best small country in the world in which to do business.
Today the economy is growing, over 1,000 new jobs are being created every week.
We are the first country inside the Euro area to successfully emerge from an EU/IMF bailout; it is a significant vote of international confidence in Ireland, and an important milestone.
The Government’s economic plan sets out our plan to stabilise the public finances, restructure the banking sector, and, most importantly, grow the economy and create jobs.
Aurivo is the first large scale milk processor in the country to switch to biomass as a source of energy.
With this world class plant, designed and manufactured by an Irish company, HDS, and the skill and determination that is here, I know Aurivo will continue to go from strength to strength.
This plant is an example of the tangible benefits that moving to bioenergy can bring.
Not alone will it help protect vital jobs through enhanced competitiveness, but the demand for biomass it will create can act as a stimulus for local farmers and foresters, sustaining and reinforcing existing enterprises in rural Ireland.
I look forward to following the progress here and I wish you all every success.