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Jobs losses for the midlands as ESB announces closure of two peat plants

It comes following the refusal of planning permission sought through An Bord Pleanála.

The ESB power station in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly.
The ESB power station in Shannonbridge, Co Offaly.

MANAGEMENT AT ESB are to close two peat-burning plants in the midlands after planning permission was refused by An Bord Pleanála last year. 

It is believed up to 80 jobs will be directly affected with a further 1,000 Bord na Móna workers who rely on the plants also impacted. 

The ESB had sought planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for its West Offaly power station to transition from peat to biomass over a number of years starting in 2020 but the application was rejected. 

Today, the semi-state body said it has carried out a review of the West Offaly and Lough Ree power stations and has decided to shut them down in december 2020.

In a statement, it said: “Having considered the key planning, environmental and commercial issues associated with peat and biomass, regrettably there is no viable business model beyond 2020.  Therefore both stations will cease the generation of electricity.

“Given our long history of power generation in Shannonbridge and Lanesboro, this is a matter of significant regret for ESB.

“ESB very much appreciates the commitment of our staff and the support of the broader community over many decades during which ESB, in strong collaboration with Bord na Móna, played a key role in the development of the economy in the midlands.”

Management will now begin liaising with staff in preparation of the closure. 

It added that in addition to the Government’s €6m allocation to the Just Transition Fund for the midlands, which was announced in Budget 2020, the ESB said it will also make a further contribution of €5m.

Peat is used at three plants in Ireland to generate electricity.

The accelerated exit from peat will mean that at least 1.25 million tonnes of carbon will be saved each year and emissions will reduce by up to 9 million tonnes up to 2027.  

In a statement following the announcement of the plants’ closure, Climate Minister Richard Bruton said a plan is in place for the transition for workers and for regions affected by the move away from peat burning. 

“I am acutely aware of the impact that an accelerated exit out of peat will have on workers and the Midlands region more broadly. We are bringing forward a number of initiatives as part of our Just Transition Plan,” he said. 

“The government prioritised just transition in the recent Budget, including a number of measures which will help ensure the transition which Kieran Mulvey, in his role as Just Transition Commissioner will now co-ordinate to ensure we secure long-term, sustainable employment for the Midlands.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Climate Action said the news of the plant closures “without any alternative arrangements in place is nothing short of a betrayal of the workers and their local communities”.

“Both the ESB and the government promised that alternative measures and a just transition would be in place before any decision to close would be taken.”

“That, it appears, is now off the table, delivering a devastating blow to the 80 ESB workers affected and the 1,000 Bord na Móna workers who rely in no small measure on the plants,” he added. 

Deputy Denis Naughten said that he is seeking an “urgent meeting” with the Taoiseach and Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment over the closures.

“This decision will have a devastating impact on not only those who will lose their jobs but on the region as a whole. This decision will have the same impact on the Midlands that any loss of Google would have in Dublin,” stated Naughten.

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