ESB’s planned closure of West Offaly Power is deeply concerning – Corcoran Kennedy

-   Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD

The ESB’s planned closure of the West Offaly Power plant is deeply concerning, a Fine Gael TD as said.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said, “As the local Government TD and a native of West Offaly, I am extremely concerned with today’s announcement by the ESB that it will cease operations at West Offaly Power in Shannonbridge at the end of 2020.

“This is devastating news, I have yet to hear from ESB as to why they have arrived at this decision and I am seeking further clarification from the company as to what impact the closure of these plants will have on our energy security.

“I had a discussion with Minister Bruton this morning and I have pressed upon him the importance of an urgent visit to Offaly to meet with those affected and to provide reassurance that the Government is foursquare behind ensuring a meaningful just transition is delivered without delay.

“I welcome the announcement of the appointment of Kieran Mulvey as Just Transition Commissioner, and I am calling on him to meet with all the stakeholders as soon as possible.

“In relation to ESB’s planned contribution to the Government’s existing €6m Just Transition Fund, surely a successful company like ESB could bring more to the table.

“I am calling on the company to double its proposed €5m contribution to the Just Transition Fund. When the Ferbane Power Station closed nearly 20 years ago, the ESB created the West Offaly Fund which was a considerably more generous package in light of the ESB’s announcement today that it will close both West Offaly Power and Lough Ree Power at the end of 2020.

“I am also in discussions with Minister Bruton and his officials to explore how the PSO levy, which is currently levied on all electricity bills, could be used to fund extensive bog rehabilitation works.

“The transition from peat mining in the Midlands has been flagged for many years and it has been accepted by Bord na Móna and the ESB, its biggest customer, that it would be peat free by 2028.

“Since, An Bord Pleanála’s decision to refuse ESB’s planning application to co-fire the station with peat and biomass, ESB’s exit from the burning of peat for electricity generation has dramatically accelerated. With the support of my colleagues in Government, I have been to the forefront in proactively fighting for the workers, their families and the wider community.

“At my invitation, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD has visited Offaly twice since July to meet with all relevant stakeholders, the workers, community representatives, Bord na Móna, ESB and Bord na Móna group of unions.

“In recognition of the uncertainty we faced here in Offaly on foot of An Bord Pleanála’s decision, I worked with my Government colleagues to ensure that a raft of measures aimed at alleviating pressure on all those affected by this transition were provided for in the recent budget.

“These include:

  • €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands. This funding will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.
  • €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one rising to 100 as the programme develops.
  • €20m to deliver new model to group housing upgrades together as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social stock in the region during 2020.

“Since Bord na Móna announced its decarbonisation transition last October, I have been to the forefront of campaigning for a ‘Just Transition’ for Offaly and for the region with my Government colleagues.

“I have consistently raised this matter with my colleagues in Government to ensure that workable solutions are delivered for all the affected stakeholders.

“This is the first major challenge for the country as we decarbonise our economy and I know from my many discussions with the workers and the wider community that there is a determination to ensure that alternative opportunities will be available in West Offaly to allow families to continue to work, live and prosper in their own area.

“I am determined to prioritise this work to ensure that the workers, families and wider community are insulated and protected from this dramatic change,” she concluded.

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