Application to convert Offaly power station to biomass rejected

ESB has confirmed that it has been left “disappointed” over the decision to reject its application to convert West Offaly Power Station at Shannonbridge to biomass.

An Bord Pleanála rejected the application yesterday, Tuesday, July 23, saying: “An extension of peat-burning at the power plant was unjustifiable in the current climate change era.”

In a statement to AgriLand, ESB added that the planning board “rejected our application to convert West Offaly Power Station to run on biomass”.

“ESB is disappointed that the application has been rejected and will now carefully study the details of the decision.”

Over 300 Bord na Móna jobs have now come under the spotlight because of the decision – and at a time when workers at Mount Dillon in Co. Longford continue to fight for their jobs, following the closure of Lough Ree Power Station by ESB two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Bord na Móna has committed to ending peat production by as early as 2025.

Grounds for refusal

AgriLand understands that the grounds for refusal include inadequate information with regard to indirect impact on the European nature conservation and designated River Shannon, and other rivers in the continued peat extraction catchment area.

Other grounds for refusal cite the inadequacy of the indigenous biomass supply in the state to serve the development, and consequent high dependence on imported biomass, contrary to EU and national policy.

Meanwhile, An Taisce called for “the immediate intervention” of Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, to respond to the planning authority’s refusal of the plant.

An Taisce calls on the minister to initiate an action plan in energy efficiency and support programmes for the future employment of ESB and Bord na Móna peat power plant workers and suppliers in the midlands.

The spokesperson continued: “This decision by An Bord Pleanála strongly indicates that the state-appointed boards and senior management of the ESB and Bord na Móna simply do not have a competent strategy in place to meet the converging global climate and biodiversity emergency.

“Both the ESB and Bord na Móna have had ample time to advance a practical strategy to transition the midlands from destructive peat burning to employment in the sustainable energy transition.”

‘A massive blow’

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s deputy Eugene Murphy says the decision “must be appealed”.

The decision made by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of an ESB power station, to co-fuel the Shannonbridge power station with biomass, must be appealed.

He continued: “This is another massive blow to Bord na Móna and ESB workers across the midlands who have seen their livelihoods decimated bit-by-bit in what is fast turning out to be a summer of discontent.

“We have known for a long time that Bord na Móna will be diversifying over the coming years but there must be time to transition.

Also Read: ‘If Bord na Móna and ESB go now that’s it for Lanesboro’

“You can’t shut up shop on an entire industry which has provided employment for successive generations without first putting in place tangible alternatives and safeguarding the local economy.”