Major objections lodged to reopening of Lough Ree power plant

Among objectors are An Taisce and two prominent international environmental lobbies

The likelihood of an ESB power station in Co Longford reopening has been further cast in doubt as it has been confirmed there has been a series of substantial objections lodged to a proposed licence for the facility.

Among the objectors are two prominent international environmental organisations, Biofuelwatch UK and the US-based Dogwood Alliance, as well as Friends of Irish Environment (FIE).

An Taisce has also objected to terms of the new licence for the Lanesborough plant which employs 150 permanent and seasonal employees.

The ESB shut down Lough Ree power station last month after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it had breached the terms of its licence due to the elevated temperature of cooling water discharged from the facility into the river Shannon.


Last week the EPA issued guidelines containing more than 112 conditions to the ESB on the revised licence for the plant. It issued the company with a “proposed determination” which outlined its intention to grant a revised licence – with 28 days to make a submission or seek an oral hearing.

An Bord Pleanála recently refused permission for the continuation of the ESB's West Offaly power plant in Shannonbridge which was using 30 per cent biomass.

Biofuelwatch, the Dogwood Alliance and FIE have all made objections, citing the grounds of refusal that were successful at Shannonbridge.

FIE said doubts over the Lough Ree plant and what it believes is the necessity to get out of peat extraction and burning as soon as possible points to an urgent need for a just transition taskforce in the midlands and for a national land use plan to be completed.

Climate crisis

It cited the critical importance of Ireland’s peatlands not only in terms of biodiversity but also in terms of the climate crisis, “where ceasing peatland drainage and extraction has rightly been described as the ‘low hanging fruit’ of the urgent reductions required in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emission”.

It added: “Any sensible consideration of this science would mandate a refusal of permission here – a decision to permit would frankly be irrational. To allow this power plant to continue operating will breach the fundamental rights of FIE, its members and citizens at large; the rights to life, bodily integrity, and environment under the Constitution; and the rights to life, and family life and home under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Biofuelwatch also submitted an open letter signed by 800 scientists that was sent to the European Parliament, which "overwhelmingly shows that biomass energy is not inherently carbon neutral or low carbon, but that it can have a climate impact as bad as or even worse than that of fossil fuels (and thus by implication peat) per unit of energy".

It adds: “Even if forests are allowed to regrow, using wood deliberately harvested for burning will increase carbon in the atmosphere and warming for decades to centuries – as many studies have shown – even when wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas. The reasons are fundamental and occur regardless of whether forest management is ‘sustainable’. Burning wood is inefficient and therefore emits far more carbon than burning fossil fuels for each kilowatt hour of electricity produced.”

Tony Lowes of FIE said "these decisions highlight the need for the State to actually put in place a just transition task force and heed the recent UN call for a land use plan to end the destructive land-management patterns that are creating 23 per cent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. More hot air is not the solution for an overheated planet."

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times