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Refusal of peat-fired power station project threatens jobs

Words: Roger Milne
West Offaly Power Station / Sarah777

Power company ESB’s plans to transition from burning peat in three power stations in Ireland's midlands region to fuelling them with biomass are in disarray and jobs are threatened.

This follows An Bord Pleanála’s decision to reject proposals by the part state-owned company to convert its 150-megawatt West Offaly plant.

Under this proposal the peat-burning plant would have been running wholly on biomass by 2027. Two other plants were due to follow suit with the government and the industry under pressure to end using peat for power generation on environmental grounds.

However, An Bord Pleanála argued that switching from rail-delivered peat to road-delivered biomass was unacceptable because of the impact of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) traffic on Shannonbridge, the nearest village to the power station, and on “a substandard regional road network”.

“The proposed development would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” it reasoned.

The planning agency argued that the proposed high dependence on imported biomass would be contrary to EU and national policy. It concluded that that the scheme would result in “unsustainably high volumes of HGV movements across the State”.

The refusal of planning permission has sent shock-waves through the region where hundreds of jobs are now under threat.

Environment minister Richard Bruton said the planning decision was "disappointing" and that ESB and Bord na Mona, the state-run peat company, would be assessing it. “Clearly we are conscious that we want to develop a roadmap for the declining use of peat and create alternative working opportunities in the midlands," he added.

ESB said it was “disappointed" by the refusal and would “carefully study the details of the decision".

Image credit | Sarah777