Sunday 18 August 2019

Power plant granted permission to operate for seven years despite environmental concerns

Bord Na Mona Edenderry Power Station in Co Offaly
Bord Na Mona Edenderry Power Station in Co Offaly
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Bord na Móna has been granted permission to continue operating an Offaly power plant for another seven years despite concerns about its impact on the environment.

An Bord Pleanála has given Bord na Móna the green light to allow the Edenderry plant continue generating until 2023 despite concerns about use of more than one million tonnes of peat a year to produce electricity.

Permission was previously granted in 2015, but this was challenged by An Taisce in the High Court and the decision was overturned.

The heritage group argued the impact of peat harvesting for use as fuel had not been properly assessed. Peat is among the most polluting fuels and has a profound impact on climate emissions, but cutting bogs also results in habitat being lost.

The plant is fired with a mix of peat and biomass, and the board’s inspector had suggested it had not been demonstrated that the development would not impact on the environment. The board sought additional information, and granted permission yesterday.

While national and local policy was “broadly supportive” of continued electricity generation from peat and biomass, the board said the transition away from using peat as a fuel source had “wide implications” on technical, environmental and employment grounds.

“Whereas the applicant has applied to continue operations using the current mix of peat and biomass fuel sources until 2030, the Board considered that continued operation for a further period of seven years would be a more appropriate period.

“The seven-year period provides an opportunity to develop and implement an appropriate response to this necessary transition,” it added.

An Taisce said the plant and two others in the Midlands benefitted from subsidies of €100m a year, and that this money would be “better invested” in energy efficiency and renewables.

“The new An Bord Pleanála decision has failed to demonstrate how it assessed the environmental impact of the peat extraction area,” it said.

“The continuation of peat extraction and burning for electricity Ireland is irreconcilable with achieving the emission reductions required under the Paris (climate) Agreement.”

Bord na Móna said it welcomed the decision, and that 50pc of all power was generated from renewable resources.

It would “completely cease” production of peat for electricity generation by 2030.

Climate Change Minister Denis Naughten also welcomed the decision, saying the decision allowed for the transition to “green energy”.

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