An Taisce Response to Bord na Móna statement on importation of Australian biomass

15th July 2019
Press Release

An Taisce Response to Bord Na Móna Confirmation of Shipment of Woody Biomass Material for Burning in Co Offaly Peat Station, as Part of Phased Plan to Substitute Biomass for Peat in Co Offaly and Co Longford Power Stations

The following is a response to media communication issued by: Pat Sammon, External Communications Manager Bord Na Móna

The response is from: Ian Lumley, An Taisce Advocacy Officer (Mobile: 083 153 2384)

NOTE : EXTRACTS FROM THE BORD NA MÓNA STATEMENT ARE IN ITALICS AND THE AN TAISCE RESPONSES ARE IN STANDARD FONT

BnM: Biomass is Europe’s largest source of renewable energy.

An Taisce: The figure to explain this needs to be provided in view of hydroelectricity capacity and increased development of renewable wind energy, and now solar potential in Europe.

BnM: Bord na Móna is developing a number of supply options for carbon neutral commodity (biomass) for use in generating renewable energy in Ireland. The company is identifying secure and sustainable sources of biomass to assist with the transition to a national electricity supply that is 70 per cent based on renewables.

An Taisce: Biomass is only notionally classified as “carbon neutral” under current EU accounting rules. All bio-energy production and combustion chains for power generation have a carbon impact as well as other inputs and outputs into production and transport.

Effective, good faith implementation of the Paris Agreement will require proper accounting of all emission impacts. This will require that full audit of emissions in the cultivation, harvesting and replanting of biomass crops or forestry or other by products. In addition transport emissions will need to be calculated and included, including international waters shipping which is currently excluded from national territorial emission accounting systems.

Bord na Móna has failed to develop sustainable sources of biomass. The planning applications for the Bord na Móna West Offaly Power site at ShannonBridge and Lough Ree site at Lanesborough predicate indefinite import dependence particularly from outside the EU. The main source of future Irish supply is from conifer plantation which is causing such controversy in Co Leitrim. An Taisce has made a detailed submission on biomass import unsustainability in its submission on the West Offaly Power Plant earlier this year[1].

BnM: Bord na Móna’s power station at Edenderry is co-fuelling with biomass and peat. Approximately 70 per cent of the biomass that is co-fuelled in Edenderry is sourced in Ireland. Co-fuelling with biomass has cut the carbon intensity of electricity generated at Edenderry by circa 40 per cent since 2007.

An Taisce: The continued import of 30% of the biomass in Edenderry shows that there is already no available biomass burning capacity in Ireland for the Offaly and Longford plants. In any case burning wood for biomass is fundamentally an inefficient way of achieving energy return. An Taisce has made a detailed submission on the inefficient of mass open combustion biomass for power generation in its submission on the West Offaly Power Plant earlier this year [1].

BnM: Bord na Móna is currently assisting ESB with their plans to conduct a series of biomass combustion trials at Lough Ree and West Offaly power stations during 2019 in preparation for potential (subject to planning) co-fuelling of biomass with peat when the peat PSO ends in December 2019. A number of potential indigenous and overseas sources of biomass have been identified to meet current and potential future demands. One shipment of approximately 37,000 tonnes of sustainably sourced biomass is being shipped from Australia.

An Taisce: The import of biomass from Australia is inappropriate in principle. Australia is continuing to mine coal and is facing major climate change pressures. The export of wood from Australia to avail of an EU renewable energy accounting rule is unsustainable. An Taisce will be seeking information on the location source, sustainablility of, and environmental impact of the timber being exported from Australia to Ireland.

BnM: The company is currently reviewing the implications of the recent decision to suspend operations at Lough Ree Power in Lanesborough and will be communicating with employees in due course.

An Taisce: The unsuitability of the Lough Ree site for warm water discharge should require the abandonment of an unsustainable project, both for continued peat burning and phased biomass import.

Instead of seeking to prolong peat cutting and unsustainable biomass Bord Na Móna should invest in a major local community supported energy efficiency programme for dwellings in the midlands, training employees in retrofitting and electric heat pump installation for which European Investment Bank funding support would be available.

NOTES

[1] An Taisce submission to An Bord Pleanála on the proposed biomass co-firing at West Offaly Power Plant, 1 Feb 2019: http://www.antaisce.org/articles/west-offaly-power-submission-to-abp

[2] An Taisce Press Release, Co-Firing Peat Power Stations still serious Environmental Threat, 3 Feb 2019: http://www.antaisce.org/articles/co-firing-peat-power-stations-still-serious-environmental-threat

CONTACT

Ian Lumley, An Taisce Advocacy Officer

Mobile: 083 153 2384