Co-Firing Peat Power Stations still serious Environmental Threat

3rd February 2019
Press Release

Why the ESB’s Plan for their West Offaly Power Plant to burn peat and timber, is wrong for Climate Action and Energy Efficiency, wrong for the Economy of the Midlands and wrong for causing Deforestation in other Countries.

ESB have lodged a direct application to An Bord Pleanala for its peat power plant at Shannonbridge Co Ofaly to burn a reducing tonnage of peat until 2027, with progressive switching to forest timber. Permission for the continued operation of peat burning is due to expire at the end of this year. A similar application for the other ESB plant in Co Longford is being lodged.

In a submission to An Bord Pleanala, An Taisce has raised multiple issues as to why the proposal for continued peat burring and phased use of timber is not a sustainable investment in Co Offaly [1].

It is wrong for Climate Action and Energy Efficiency.

  • The project prolongs peat burning in Ireland into the end of the next decade and delays the rehabilitation and restoration of the cutting supply bogs.
  • Burning shredded forest timber is not “zero carbon” in real impact across the growing cutting, transport and combustion cycle[2].
  • Open combustion for electricity generation is fundamentally inefficient because of heat waste.

It is wrong for the Economy of the Midlands

  • The project is based on trucking in increased tonnages of timber either through the Irish ports or over long distances in HGVs from around Ireland.
  • Better employment and climate benefit can be achieved by investing in energy efficiency and decarbonisation. This would include:
  1. Insulation retrofitting of the housing stock to reduce energy consumption
  2. Using Irish timber and biomass material for building and other products that lock in rather than burn carbon
  3. Investing in renewable and energy storage technologies as part of a coherent national strategy

It is wrong for causing deforestation in other countries

  • No immediate or longer-term sustainable timber supply source is identified from Ireland.
  • The project is dependent on the indefinite and unquantified import of timber from either Europe, USA or other countries, worsening global deforestation.
  • Energy experts, local communities and forest protection organisations in the US, which is already exporting pulped timber to Europe and one of the potential countries for supplying Ireland, are opposing the project.

Summarizing the overall impact of the project An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer Ian Lumley stated:

“The proposal perpetuates peat extraction and burning, delays rehabilitation of the supply bogs, is dependent on the unsustainable import or national sourcing and inefficient use of timber, causes adverse ecological, air pollution, traffic generation and local amenity impacts, with the forest material trucked in long distances leaving poor local employment gain.”

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer, An Taisce: +353 83 153 2384
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Notes:

  1. An Taisce’s submission to ABP re West Offaly Power Plant http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/20190131-abp-303108.pdf
  2. A UK Chatham House report published in February 2017 establishes that the burning of Biomass is not carbon neutral, as it “emits more carbon per unit of energy than most fossil fuels ” and has a range of sustainability impacts. https://www.chathamhouse.org/publication/impacts-demand-woody-biomass-power-and-heat-climate-and-forests
  3. When the first National Climate Change Strategy was being prepared in 1999, it was recommended that peat burning for power would be phased out by 2008. Instead the planning of highly subsidised new plants was pushed through by Bord na Mona and granted after appeals by An Taisce in 2002.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.