you are here : home » news »

ESB 'misconceived and misleading' at West Offaly Peat Power Station Hearing

17 Apr 2019


17 April 2019


ESB totally ‘misconceived and misleading’ at West Offaly Power Station Oral Hearing


The Electricity Supply Board [ESB] was told today that the ESB’s argument that the proposed co-firing of the Shannonbridge Peat Power Plant with biomass is ‘intuitively appealing but fundamentally misconceived and misleading’.


The claim came in response to the ESB’s position outlined at An Bord Pleanala Oral Hearing in Tullamore today. The proposal was opposed by Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE], Friends of the Earth [FoE], and An Taisce amongst others.


FIE’s barrister, John Kenny, BL, told the hearing that ‘The choice facing the Board is not between permitting a plant that burns 100% peat and permitting a plant that burns some biomass and some peat. The choice is instead between permitting a peat-and-biomass plant on the one hand, and refusing permission on the other - between using the most carbon intensive form of fuel known to man and no emissions at all.’


‘The Applicant’s argument that the project will result in emissions reductions is therefore wrong as a matter of fact and fundamentally misconceived.’


FIE maintains that the if the effects of peat production/transportation and biomass production/transportation were properly assessed by the Board in this case the project would be refused.


‘If the direct and indirect effects of the power plant need to be assessed pursuant to the EIA Directive, the production/transportation of peat and the production/transportation of biomass are either a direct or indirect effect of plant,’ Counsel John Kelly told the hearing on behalf of the environmental charity.


FIE drew the Hearing’s attention to their current proceedings issued last month in the EU General Court challenging the treatment of forest biomass as a renewable fuel in the European Union’s 2018 revised Renewable Energy Directive (known as RED II). The proceedings cite scientific studies showing that the greenhouse gas emission from forest biomass is greater per unit of energy produced than coal. The 6 plaintiffs, including FIE Director Tony Lowes, claim ‘forest biomass harvesting and combustion harms forest ecosystems and undermine climate goals’.


According to Mr. Kenny, ‘The Applicant has not provided information regarding where this biomass will be produced, etc, other than in the most general terms.’ it is necessary for the Applicant to identify the precise sources of biomass to be used (both domestically and internationally) in order to allow the Board to carry out a legally compliant EIA and appropriate assessment in this case.’

The ESB refused a request from the organisation for its consideration of forms of biomass for use as the work is ‘not complete’.


Friends of the Earth said the claims to use indigenous biomass supplies are unrealistic and do not reflect the reality of the quantities of biomass available in Ireland, expressing serious concerns that the source of the additional biomass has not been identified.


Kate Ruddock of FoE told the hearing that ‘The use of peat in electrical generation contributes to approximately 9% of the electricity use in Ireland, but is responsible for approximately 20% of the pollution from the electricity sector.  This fuel is not compatible with sustainable electricity generation and its use is in direct contradiction with our national climate and energy objectives, and our obligations under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ 


In summing up, Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer of An Taisce, stated ‘In brief the proposal perpetuates unquantified peat extraction and burning, delays rehabilitation of the supply bogs, is dependent on the unsustainable import or national sourcing and inefficient use of timber, causes adverse ecological, air pollution, traffic generation and local amenity impacts, with forest material trucked in long distances leaving poor local employment gain’.


FIE Response to ESB



Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment 353 (0)87 2176316

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995

Kate Ruddock Friends of the Earth

Irish language:  David Healy 087 6178852



ESB have lodged an application for planning permission with An Bord Pleanala (REF; 303108) to co-fire their Shannonbridge Power Station with peat and biomass.

A second application has been made to Longford County Council for planning permission to co-fire the power station in Lough Rae, Co. Longford.

Digital Revolutionaries