Plans to decommission Moneypoint by 2025 delayed by Government over fears of power outages

New Climate Action Plan will include plans to convert Moneypoint from coal to oil, to double the use of solar power and to put more emphasis on sustainable travel over electric vehicles

The Government’s long-standing commitment to stop burning fossil fuels at Moneypoint power station by 2025 will be delayed following a key decision to convert the facility from coal to oil to prevent power outages over next few winters.

The coal-burning plant on the Shannon Estuary is the State’s largest generating station but is also the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the sector. A significant portion of the 21 per cent increase in emissions from electricity in 2021 was attributed to a greater reliance on Moneypoint.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan for 2023, to be published in early December, includes a new commitment to convert Moneypoint from coal to oil. With growing concerns over security of the energy supply in the State, the Government is not in a position to decommission Moneypoint as a fuel-burning station in the near future. Indeed, it will also need to purchase gas-burning jet turbines at a cost of €300 million to be used as emergency backup electricity generators at times of peak demand.

It was confirmed by the Government on Sunday that Moneypoint will convert to oil generation from 2023. Oil is a less ”dirty” fuel than coal, and will emit lower volumes of greenhouse gases. The long-term plan for Moneypoint is to convert the power station into a centre that will manufacture wind turbines and which will convert wind-generated energy into green hydrogen. However, the deadline for that change has been pushed back into the second half of the decade.

READ MORE

This change of policy has been signalled by senior figures in Government for some time. Earlier this autumn in the Dáil Tánaiste Leo Varadkar referred to Moneypoint and the nearby station in Tarbert, Co Clare, power station when saying it was too soon to ditch the older power stations: “I don’t like the fact we are burning oil in Tarbert, but we do actually need to do so, and we may need to do so for many years to come. Those plants will not be decommissioned until we are confident that we are able to replace them with secure supply and secure renewables, and that might take a bit of time.”

With overall emissions rising in 2021, and with no significant change expected in 2022, the new action plan is expected to focus on more immediate measures that can result in reductions of emissions during the remaining 2½ years of government.

Addressing the Green Party convention on Saturday, Eamon Ryan pledged to double the ambition for solar power achieving the target of 5,000MW of capacity five years early, reaching it by 2025 rather than 2030. He said this would be achieved by simplifying the planning process and also providing grants and incentives to homeowners, to farmers and businesses. At present there are solar panels on 40,000 buildings.

In a series of interviews on Sunday, Mr Ryan promised that by 2025 there would be sufficient solar power from homes and from solar farms to power the entire country on sunny afternoons.

The new action plan will also formally remove the actual figure for the number of electric vehicles (EVs) it hopes to have in issue in the State by 2030. That figure of 950,000 vehicles will be replaced by a percentage, 30 per cent of the entire fleet.

The Department of Transport said the reason behind the decision was that focusing on the actual number of vehicles gave the impression that the strategy was all about cars when the focus is on a more sustainable transport scenario featuring public transport, shared mobility and active travel, as well as EVs.

A spokeswoman added that 30 per cent of the fleet would approximate to 950,000 vehicles in any instance.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times