Bord na Móna welcomes report into transition away from peat in the midlands

Semi-State says Just Transition is in harmony with its ‘brown to green’ strategy

At least 300 people engaged in peat harvest will be deployed by the company in a peatland rehabilitation programme. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

At least 300 people engaged in peat harvest will be deployed by the company in a peatland rehabilitation programme. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

Bord na Móna has welcomed the first report by the Just Transition commissioner Kieran Mulvey which envisages the midlands turning away from peat and into a renewable energy hub.

The company announced in November that it was exiting peat production at its two peat-powered generating plants at Shannonbridge, Co Offaly and Lanesboro, Co Longford by the end of this year in response to an accelerated transition for its staff.

Reacting to the result, Bord na Móna chief executive Tom Donellan said Mr Mulvey’s report was an “apt reminder” of its contribution to the region and its future role in promoting the green economy.

“The report notes the importance of our Brown to Green strategy that involves a €1.6 billion investment and development programme with a particular emphasis on green projects, using our landbank to help Ireland make progress on climate action,” he said.

He stressed that Bord na Móna will remain a major employer in the midlands employing people through the accelerated development of its renewable energy assets most notably wind power.

At least 300 people engaged in peat harvest will be deployed by the company in a peatland rehabilitation programme involving tens of thousands of hectares of peatland as a biodiversity and as an amenity.

Mr Donnellan said the Government, local authorities, the ESB and local training institutions will ensure that the future is not just a “retreat from peat but the dawn of a new, sustainable, green economy centred on the Midlands”.

Fianna Fáil TD for Offaly, Barry Cowen said the crux of the issue was funding and work should begin immediately to ensure the release of the €11 million in funding which is in place for reskilling.

He also called on the Government to urgently address the loss in rates sustained by Offaly County Council, which will drop by 25 per cent, and in Longford by 15 per cent as a result of the power station closures.

Mr Cowen said the next government must increase the money available through the Just Transition fund and that will be supported if Fianna Fáil are in power.

“At every turn we’ve seen an acceleration of the decarbonisation process which far outstrips any investment in the midlands,” he said.

“Everyone had been aware of the decarbonisation process. We knew what was coming, but no one was prepared for the brutal way in which it would be implemented, with blow after blow coming for workers in the midlands over the past number of years.

“We know that to sit on our hands now would risk damaging the midlands for decades to come and potentially damage future efforts to decarbonise. We have one chance to get the Just Transition right and we must take it.”