Congress calls for review of national energy policy amid fears of peat fuel shortfall at Edenderry power plant

27 Jan 2021

just transition

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (January 27) called on Minister Eamon Ryan to initiate an urgent review of national energy policy and to guarantee the continued operation of Edenderry Power Station, amid fears that a shortage of peat fuel could jeopardise the plant’s generation capacity and undermine Ireland’s energy security.

Following the recent decision by Bord na Móna to cease all peat harvesting, unions have expressed fears that insufficient stocks of peat could jeopardise the continued running of the Edenderry power plant and precipitate further job losses within Bord na Móna itself.

The Congress Energy Sector Group - comprised of unions across the energy generation sector - is now demanding that the Minister for Environment, Climate & Communications initiates an urgent review of policy to ensure energy security and to prevent additional job losses in the sector, in the context of reaching our climate action objectives.

The Congress Group is calling for a “planned, managed and agreed Just Transition that helps maximise jobs and guarantees energy security, which Ireland signed up to under the terms of the Paris Agreement and the 2018 Silesia Declaration."

The Congress call also follows the closure of the Shannonbridge and Lough Ree power stations last month along with warnings of potential power cuts, as demand threatened to outpace supply on the National Grid on at least four occasions over recent months.

The Bord na Móna owned and operated power station at Edenderry, County Offaly, is a key part of the National Grid with an installed capacity of up to 128 megawatts of electricity. It will continue to burn a mix of peat and biomass fuel until the end of 2023, when it is hoped to switch to 100% biomass.

Similar plans to convert the Shannonbridge plant to biomass were refused, partly because of an insufficient supply of indigenous biomass to fuel the plant.

Bord na Móna has insisted that existing peat stocks will be adequate to maintain supply to Edenderry until 2023, and also to the company’s briquette making factory in Derrinlough, Offaly and its horticulture operation in Kilberry, Kildare.

However, in a recent letter to management the Bord na Móna Group of Unions stated “members believe that there are insufficient stocks of appropriate peat” to guarantee supplies to Edenderry Station, the briquette plant and the horticulture operations. The Group of Unions has called on the company to quantify the volumes of peat it has available to meet the needs of all three.

Unions across the sector fear any shortfall could impact on Edenderry’s power output and also result in further job losses within Bord na Móna.

On January 6 last, the Single Electricity Market Operator (SEMO) issued an ‘amber alert’ over the low levels of power available on the National Grid as demand threatened to overwhelm existing supply. It was the fourth alert in recent months.

Meanwhile, horticulture companies have already warned of possible closures and job losses in the sector over the loss of peat supplies and the difficulties in importing the product from the Baltic states or Malaysia, in a post-Brexit trading environment.

Chair of the Congress Energy Sector Group Jim Dullaghan said: “Just Transition is about creating and protecting jobs and guaranteeing energy security, particularly in a post-Brexit environment. Unfortunately, official policy currently appears to be having the opposite effect and may be undermining both. In terms of meeting our climate action objectives, the Minister needs to initiate this review as a matter of urgency as we appear to be sleepwalking into potentially serious energy and employment problems, in the midst of a major pandemic.”

Chair of the Bord na Mona Group of Unions, Willie Noone said: “Bord na Móna must now come clean on the level of peat supplies available as this has major implications for jobs and energy security. Given the current crisis it is a mystery why they have chosen to close profitable enterprises and force other businesses to import supplies from abroad. That makes no economic or political sense. I think it is time we heard the voices of local, Midlands TDs on this critical issue.”

For further information, contact: Macdara Doyle (087 9174171)