ESB closes Ferbane power station in Offaly

The ESB has closed a power plant in Co Offaly which employed about 100 people but produced no electricity for the past two years…

The ESB has closed a power plant in Co Offaly which employed about 100 people but produced no electricity for the past two years. The peat-burning power station at Ferbane is understood to have cost £7 million (€8.89 million) to keep open since it ceased production in 1999.

Certain departing workers will receive a lump sum of almost two years' salary, and continuing payment of half their salary. In lump sums alone, more than £2 million will be spent by the ESB.

Another plant in Co Offaly at Rhode - which also employs 100 people - has been closed since May 12th after an explosion seriously injured one staff member.

A decision on the future of that plant will be taken after the Health and Safety Authority completes an investigation into the accident.


That plant would be due to close in 2004, and the ESB must decide whether to repair the damage caused by the accident or close the plant altogether.

Informed figures at senior levels in the company say this would require a significant investment, as the damage was extensive. However, it is thought that Bord na M≤na, which supplies peat to the power station, is keen that it be re-opened.

The demolition of Ferbane will begin shortly, ending an embarrassing episode for the State company. Its chairman, Mr Tadgh O'Donoghue, has said it was not proud that the plant was kept open.

Informed figures said the power station, which had been in operation since 1957, remained open because unions would not discuss closure in isolation from a company-wide restructuring programme.

Known as PACT, that plan was completed last July, nine months after a deadline set by the company's board was passed. Some 2,000 of the ESB's 8,000 staff will leave the company at a cost of £236 million.

While younger workers at Ferbane will be redeployed to the ESB's networks division, about 55 workers in their 50s who take voluntary severance will receive one year's salary and continuing payment of half their salary until they reach 60. At that stage they will receive their pension.

Under the terms of PACT, the lump sum will be calculated according to a basic rate of about £20,000. It will not account for bonuses and shift allowances, which bring the money earned by power station staff far higher than basic rates.

In addition, departing staff will receive the equivalent of 10 months' salary in the form of a retainer because they can be called on to work on the demolition of the plant.

Ferbane and Rhode are among six old plants in the midlands which are being closed as the electricity market liberalises.

Two new peat-fired plants are planned at Lanesborough, Co Longford, and Shannonbridge, Co Offaly. They will employ only about 40 people each.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times