Read our full submission on the Draft National Biomethane Strategy here.

An Taisce submitted a damning critique of the Government’s Draft National Biomethane Strategy in response to the consultation which closed on 5th March.

The Draft Strategy lays out a framework for significantly scaling up the production of biomethane via anaerobic digestion (AD) plants using grass silage and slurry as feedstocks. This biomethane will primarily be for injection into the existing national gas grid, displacing around 10% of fossil gas in the gas supply. However, the Draft Strategy failed to fully analyse the potential negative climate and environmental impacts.

In December, An Taisce sent a letter to the government ministers and departments responsible for preparing the National Biomethane Strategy, warning that the lack of input from non-industry stakeholders in its preparation gave the strong appearance of regulatory capture by vested interests.

The Strategy as drafted is undermined by major due diligence failures by government and agencies. Biassed stakeholder consultations favoured the powerful interests most likely to financially benefit from misdirected policy supports, questionable “green gas” credits, and substantial public monies.

While Industry experts, developers, gas users, and State bodies were consulted in the formulation of the Draft Strategy, the key environmental NGO groupings – the Environmental Pillar, Stop Climate Chaos and the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) – were not. Indeed, crucial expert testimony and multiple peer-reviewed academic findings (see Notes below) highlighting the potential climate and environmental pitfalls of biomethane production have not been incorporated in the Draft Strategy. 

Critically, issues with the leakage of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas, from AD plants have largely been ignored. In many cases, these methane losses from AD biomethane production are likely to be unsustainable, even to the point of being worse for the climate than fossil gas usage. 

Similarly, the Draft Strategy has failed to fully assess the adverse impacts to climate and water quality as a result of the fertiliser input needed to grow the silage that is proposed as a feedstock for the AD plants. Increased ammonia pollution from using digestate, the output from the AD process, as fertiliser is also a known risk that goes unevaluated in the Draft Strategy.

Therefore, the Draft Strategy requires major reconsideration of these findings, strong regulatory requirements and independent oversight to ensure that serious known problems with biomethane production are actually addressed.

Overall, the failure by government and agencies to achieve a wide evidence and stakeholder basis for the National Biomethane Strategy means there is a very large risk of public money being wasted for minimal climate benefit, and a likelihood of failing to reduce nitrogen pollution – ammonia to air, and nitrates to water. 

An Taisce now strongly urges the Government to significantly revise the Draft Strategy and include input from environmental NGO stakeholders and peer-reviewed academic findings. Proceeding with the Strategy as-is seriously risks exacerbating the climate and environmental issues it claims to address.