Before 2006 there was no significant market for wood pellets in Ireland, and no indigenous production of wood pellets. Two significant developments promoted the market in 2006.
Firstly, a sawmill and timber products company based in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, built a combined heat and power plant (CHP), 10MW heat, 3MW electricity, with assistance from the UK government of £3 million. They also built alongside it a pellet production plant with a capacity of 50,000 tons per annum. This was commissioned in 2005 and initially exported pellets to UK power stations for co-firing. They now have a supply network across Ireland (north and south) and a distribution centre at Cork. Loose pellets are sold directly by the company, whilst bagged pellets are sold through a network of independent distributors. In the Autumn of 2008 they reported that they had 2,500 domestic customers and 100 commercial customers across the whole of Ireland.
Secondly, setting up of Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI); an agency of the Irish government in 2002 to “promote and assist the development of renewable energy”. Their brief consisted of reducing dependence on fossil fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging the development of renewable energy technologies. Under the “Greener Homes Scheme”, introduced in 2006, SEI provided financial assistance to householders in the form of grants to install renewable energy systems. With the help of these grants, over 2400 biomass boilers and stoves (mostly wood pellets) were installed.
A significant further development has been the establishment of two pellet manufacturers in the Republic of Ireland. The larger of these is based near Kilkenney which became operational in the summer of 2008. With three pellet presses and a reported production capacity of 75,000 tonnes (estimated utilisation in 2008 15,000 tonnes) they can supply both loose and bagged pellets to a wide range of customers. The other, smaller producer is based in Co. Meath who produce bagged pellets and briquettes to local consumers on a domestic scale.
Please refer to the Publication section for a comprehensive report on the pellet market in Ireland.