Lessons need to be learned from ESB Offaly and Longford peat plant closures says An Taisce
The announcement by ESB that the Planning Application to extend the operation of the Lough Ree, Co Longford, power station for peat burning to 2027, with progressive biomass timber import, is to be abandoned follows the refusal by An Bord Pleanala of the parallel application for the Offaly plant in July.
This is most welcome in reducing Irish Greenhouse gas emissions and abandoning the unsustainable import of biomass from as far afield as Australia.
However it creates a major employment loss in the Midlands which needs a Just Transition response - for which European Investment Bank Funding can and should be rapidly mobilised. The development of these two peat plants by ESB with a Bord Na Mona supply contract was a wasted State company investment which should never have happened. On top of this the electricity consumer was shackled with a Public Service Obligation (PSO) annual subsidy amounting to hundreds of millions over the lifetime of the plants.
Investment should instead have been put into energy efficiency and demand reduction measures such as building insulation and accessible and electrified public transport. Such measures would have reduced Ireland’s fossil fuel import bill and carbon emissions, while enhancing local environments and community well-being. An Taisce had strongly advocated against the new peat plant investment and was the only organization to appeal two applications to An Bord Pleanala. However permission was granted in 2004 for a 15 year period, which reflects no credit on the political and public service decision makers and professional consultants involved.
The correct lessons must be learned from what was a wasted public investment, with an unecessary and regressive subsidy burden.
All new public investment in energy, transport and infrastructure needs to strategically address the coupled emergencies of climate disruption and biodiversity loss, while delivering a just and equitable transition, nationally and internationally.
This is irreconcilable with current Government motorway and dual-carriageway plans in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Mayo, Meath and Monaghan, and continuing expansion of Dublin airport, including a new runway and major terminal facility development. At the same time Government has supported dairy expansion, with increasing greenhouse gas emissions and other adverse local environmental impacts. The proposed new cheese factories by a Norwegian company TILE with Dairygold in Cork Cork and by Dutch Royal A-ware with Glanbia in Co Kilkenny, are investments which will lock Ireland into further, entirely unsustainable, dairy intensification. Proceeding with these current projects is just as short-sighted and ill advised as the wasted investment in the midlands peat plants made at the beginning of the last decade.
A fundamental re-evaluation of the direction of societal investment - involving active and pervasive citizen engagement - is long overdue.
Contact: Ian Lumley, An Taisce Advocacy Officer
Phone (mobile): 083 153 2384