The ESB has announced the closure of two peat-powered generating plants after failing to secure permission to switch them to biomass power stations.
The plants – at Shannonbridge in Offaly and Lanesboro, Co Longford – will stop generating electricity from December 2020. The two plants, which were commissioned in 2004, employ 80 people between them.
In a statement, ESB noted that the current planning permissions for the plants expire at the end of next year and said their closure marks the end of power generation solely from burning peat in the State.
Lanesboro produced 135 megawatts of power and Lough Ree Power produced 100 megawatts; together, they could power about 245,000 homes.
The State energy utility submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála in 2018 to switch Shannonbridge from peat to biomass over a number of years, starting in 2020. That proposal was rejected in July.
"Since then, ESB has undertaken a review of the options for both West Offaly Power [Shannonbridge] and Lough Ree Power [Lanesboro] stations post 2020 in the context of the requirements of the single electricity market," the company said.
ESB said it would now begin the process of engaging with staff and stakeholders to prepare for an orderly closure of the stations. The Irish Times understands that compulsory redundancies are not envisaged. One source noted that previously, a portion of staff were offered early retirement, another portion took voluntary severance while the remainder were redeployed.
ESB said the company would put €5 million into a Just Transition Fund established by the Government, with €6 million in exchequer funding to assist regeneration of the Midlands.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton has appointed Kieran Mulvey to be a “just transition commissioner” to co-ordinate Government response to the State’s accelerated exit out of peat and the effect that will have on workers and the midlands region.
Both plants support hundreds of jobs at Bord na Móna, which supplies the peat that they burn to generate electricity.
Bord na Móna group of unions secretary, Siptu official Willie Noone, said last month that news the ESB had been looking to recover the cost of dismantling the power plants confirmed many of his members’ fears.
However, in response to questions on Friday, Bord Na Móna said staff will not be affected by the ESB announcement.
Separately on Friday, Bloomberg reported that ESB is in advanced talks to buy a stake in a Scottish offshore wind farm project owned by Electricite de France, sources said.
A deal for a 50 per cent holding in the Neart na Gaoithe development could be announced as soon as the next few weeks.
EDF bought the asset from Mainstream Renewable Power last year for an undisclosed amount. At the time, EDF said it would open the project to other investors in due course. The 450-megawatt facility is set to cost about £1.8 billion pounds (€2.08 billion) to build and will supply enough electricity for 375,000 homes. It is due to be commissioned in 2023, the French state-controlled utility has said.