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'Absolutely devastated': Plans for future of ESB power station in Co Offaly refused

In a statement, the ESB has said it is “disappointed that the application has been rejected”.

The ESB power station in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly
The ESB power station in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

AN ESB POWER station in Co Offaly has been refused planning permission to redevelop in order to burn biomass. 

The station in Shannonbridge sought permission continue the use of its ash disposal facility beyond the permitted date of 31 December 2020. It also sought permission to transition to being solely fuelled by biomass by the end of 2027. 

The planning permission was refused by An Bord Pleanála today. 

In a statement, the ESB has said it is “disappointed that the application has been rejected”. 

“ESB will now carefully study the details of the decision,” it said. 

Refusal

In its decision, An Bord Pleanála outlined its reasons for refusal: “It is considered that the provision of a regionally significant power generating facility, dependent primarily upon the burning of a fuel imported into the facility, needs to be associated and aligned with strategic energy management, planning and renewable energy policies and plans in order to achieve balanced, orderly and sustainable development.”

It added that it was considered that the “development of such energy infrastructure, pursuing optimal sustainable utilisation of renewable energy emanating from the power production process, is required in order that such development positively contributes to the environment and that the siting of such development is appropriately located, with accessibility to the supply network of the intended fuel sources”. 

Finally, it is considered that the cessation of the use of peat as a fuel is a key component within national climate and energy policy in helping to reduce the generation of excessive greenhouse emissions from the established facility to assist in meeting the State’s domestic, EU and international climate change obligations in the energy sector.

Criticism

Minister Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton has said it is “disappointing” that the plans have not been accepted. 

Bruton said the ESB will now need to evaluate the decision. 

“The ESB will have to look at that and see what are the implications for the future,” Bruton told RTÉ News at One

“From the government’s point of view, we want to ensure that the strategy that Bord na Móna want to pursue – which is to have an orderly exit from peat and to create alternative employment – that remains the priority for government,” he said.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said the decision must be appealed. 

“At the end of the day, the speed at which plants are closing and jobs are being lost is completely disproportionate to any investment in the region and the midlands will be left behind. I am calling on the ESB to immediately appeal the decision,” Cowen said.

Siptu has called on Minister Bruton to take direct responsibility for the continued operation of ESB power stations. 

“The news today, that An Bord Pleanála has refused Shannonbridge Power Station in county Offaly a licence to develop a biomass fuel firing system threatens hundreds of jobs in the midlands region,” ESB group of unions secretary Willie Noone said in a statement. 

Speaking on RTÉ News on One, Noone said that he is “absolutely devastated” about today’s decision. 

“Not surprised, we were expecting bad news, not to this extent of bad news. This actually opened up pandora’s box as regarding Bord na Móna and future work within that company,” Noone said. 

“We’ve called for the Minister to get involved, he has to get involved now and bang heads together,” he said. 

“This is now a serious crisis.”

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