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Independent.ie

Thursday 25 April 2019

Farmers dismayed as future of power plant in question after poor energy rating

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Mayo Renewable Power chairman Gerald Crotty after laying the foundation stone for the new biomass power station on the former Asahi site in Killala, Co Mayo. Photo: Henry Wills
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Mayo Renewable Power chairman Gerald Crotty after laying the foundation stone for the new biomass power station on the former Asahi site in Killala, Co Mayo. Photo: Henry Wills
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

An unfinished power plant that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on faces the ‘death-knell’ after a poor rating by the energy regulator.

Farmers and locals have expressed dismay with the future viability of the Mayo Power plant in Killala now in question after a local TD revealed the decision of the energy regulator to issue a Certificate of High Efficiency to the company with a rate of 18pc - compared to a 100pc rating issued previously.

In order to obtain certain carbon tax relief, it must be determined that the project meets the requirements for high-efficiency cogeneration by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CER). The relief is intended to take account of the higher energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly aspects of these plants.

Local Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin said the decision could sound the ‘death-knell’ for the short-term delivery of a 45 MW high-efficiency, combined heat and power, biomass-fuelled power plant which was to cost up to €200m to build.

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod on the facility, which was being built in Killala by US-backed company Mayo Renewable Power in 2015.

"This is devastating for the area. The construction of the power plant would bring jobs and it is partially constructed, with €95 million spent out of €255 million for the project. There would also be jobs when it is operational.," Mulherin said.

Ms Mulherin also highlighted that farmers in the area will also lose out on an alternative source of income. At the time of its launch, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was supportive of the plant's development and highlighted the potential benefits for local farmers.

Kenny said that he hoped local farmers would “realise that they have...land on which they can grow a renewable crop and that they will avail of that". He said farmer involvement would lessen the dependency on imports and would also “provide extra cash income for many farmers right across the west and north west".

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"There is the potential to grow willow, which would be fed into this combined heat and power plant, and to create woodchips. 

She also noted that there is planning permission for a data centre on the site. 

"A selling point was that there could be a green energy power plant here, which is now being brought into question. 

"There is national interest here in that, in 2020, we face fines for failing to meet our targets for renewable heat and electricity, and this perfectly fine project has been dealt a blow by the regulator," she said.

The unfinished biomass power plant in Co Mayo into which almost €100m had been ploughed went into liquidation 2016. Since then a new developer has come on board.

"It has consents from all Government agencies involved as well as ESB Networks. 

"Mayo County Council extended the planning permission and EPA approval was granted. 

"However, the Energy Regulator which previously certified this project at a rate of 100pc and has now turned around and certified it at 18pc. 

"It is the same project, the same regulation and the same technology", she said.

Online Editors