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Green energy conference aims to help firms target renewable sector

By Clare Weir

A conference will take place next week to help companies from Northern Ireland gain a foothold in the fast- growing bioenergy sector.

The event at South West College in Omagh on Tuesday will identify opportunities for organisations to capitalise on biogas and biomass technologies and help build a platform for growth.

These technologies are used to generate both electricity and heat from biological sources such as wood or farm waste and are already creating thousands of jobs across the globe.

Organised by the InnoTech Centre and funded by the Department for Employment and Learning, speakers at the event include renewable energy expert Wolfgang Gabauer from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria, Tom Brennan from Londonderry-based Rural Generation, Christian Pointner from Bioenergy 2020+ in Austria, a European leader in biomass technology, Martin Sturm, from Camphill Community Clanabogan, and William Robinson, from B9 Organic Energy.

Aaron Black, conference chairperson and head of sustainable technologies at the InnoTech Centre, said if new technologies are applied, the bioenergy sector has the potential to generate a large percentage of power requirements and support business growth.

"Many of Europe's strongest economies are already tapping into the potential of bioenergy as an important economic driver and its uptake in the UK and Ireland is growing at a rapid pace," he said.

"So much so, for example, that the National Grid estimates biogas could make up nearly 50% of domestic gas by 2020.

"Unsurprisingly, companies in Northern Ireland have been quick to respond to the new lucrative opportunities and locally based firms such as B9 Organic Energy and Rural Generation have successfully clinched major contracts at home and abroad."

Tom Brennan, managing director of Rural Generation, said Government-led incentives for heat installations would provide a boost to the renewable sector and beyond.

"It's an exciting time for firms operating in the bioenergy sector," he said.

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