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€50m power plant faces delay over REFIT bid

The brakes have been put on a €50m investment in an energy project in the midlands because of the delay in securing EU clearance for Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT).

Biotricity has planning permission to redevelop the former ESB power station site in Rhode, Co Offaly, but cannot start work without a REFIT scheme being in place.

Such a scheme will guarantee 12c/Kwhr for electricity generated from renewable sources and is vital to the viability of the project.

The company plans to build a 15MW electricity generator fuelled mainly by willow.

The development will create 250 construction jobs, with 60 staff employed once the plant is operational, and a further 20 transport jobs.


Biotricity's Briain Smyth said that the power station would need 17,000ac of willow when it is at full capacity.

The company already has access to 800ac of willow and it plans to increase the contracted acreage by 3,000ac a year over a five-year period once the plant is working.

Mr Smyth accused the Government of "sitting on their hands" on REFIT and delaying a raft of viable energy projects which had the potential to create thousands of jobs.

"We'd love to be up and going instead of sitting around and twiddling our thumbs," Mr Smyth said.

"This project will create jobs in construction, even the boiler is being built by Kells company HDS Energy," he added.

Mr Smyth said growing willow could also become a valuable alternative crop for farmers in the midlands.

Meanwhile, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has indicated that a formal application to the Commission will be submitted on REFIT within days.

The Department confirmed that a "pre-application submission" was lodged with the Commission last November.

"This is, in effect, a full application with all of the forms and support data required, but one which allows us to talk bilaterally with DG Competition, the relevant branch of the European Commission," a Department spokesman said.


"While we are in this part of the process, they can request additional information, ask questions, or make suggestions.

"In turn, we can amend the application to take account of any concerns they may have, or add more information to clarify issues.

"Once the Commission feel that they have sufficient information to make a determination, they then signal that they are prepared to declare the application complete, at which point the process moves to 'Full Notification' status, and the clock starts on a two-month basis."

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It is understood that DG Competition came back with a series of questions last December, which have since been responded to.

"Following a series of contacts, it is expected that DG Competition will be issuing a further communication to the Department in the coming days. It is intended that a formal application will be submitted at that stage," he concluded.

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