Additional reporting by Digital Desk staff
ESB has announced it is closing two power stations in the midlands. The company is currently meeting with employees from West Offaly and Longford's Lough Ree power stations to inform them of the plan for the closure of the stations.
The government recently announced the creation of a €6 million Just Transition Fund for the midlands, and the ESB has announced that it will make an additional contribution of €5 million to the fund.
The ESB says it's a matter of significant regret, and it very much appreciates the commitment of staff. Up to 90 workers are believed to be affected.
The ESB said it submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála in 2018 seeking planning permission to transition West Offaly Power from peat to biomass over a number of years starting in 2020.
However, the planning application was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in July of this year. The ESB said:
"Since then, ESB has undertaken a review of the options for both West Offaly Power and Lough Ree Power stations post 2020 in the context of the requirements of the single electricity market (SEM).
CEO of ESB Pat O'Doherty said: “It is a matter of deep regret and deep sadness, the ESB has been on these sites for seven decades, we have worked really hard to create viable businesses, but sadly for planning, economic and climate reasons we haven't been able to get that to work.
“This is indeed a blow to the midlands, the ESB has been anchored in the midlands and will continue to be anchored in the midlands, we will have in excess of 300 staff in the networks business and in other businesses in the midlands and we will be investing tens of millions in the midlands, we will still be a very big part of the community.
“There's no single issue, it's a multiplicity of complex issues - there's economic issues, there's planning issues, and indeed climate, climate is a big part of this. Peat is fossil fuel, it is carbon emitting and carbon and climate is one of the issues one of the reasons, but there are economic and planning reasons also.”
Asked why ESB hadn't appealed the An Bord Pleanála decision, he said:
"We decided, given the nature and extent of the judgment by An Bord Pleanála that there was nothing we could do. We decided not to appeal or to judicially review it. The net reduction in carbon emission because of closure of two plants will be 1.25m to 1.5m tonnes over a year.
"The reduction in carbon emission is very welcome, but it is very, very tough day for the staff and families of our workers and Bord na Mona workers and the communities of Shannonbridge and Lanesboro. That is not lost on us. We briefed our staff this morning and there's a sombre enough mood now. We will work with our staff and unions to do this over the course of the next year.”
Willie Noone from SIPTU Bord na Mona group of unions said: “The amount of money that is being put in is only a drop in the ocean, we believe that the announcement of a commissioner is welcome, however it is like closing the gate when the cattle are gone up the field. The reality of it is that hundreds of workers have already left, there's hundreds more going to go in the next two to three months.
“The imposition of a commissioner to divvy out funds to vulture businessmen is great for those businessmen, but it's no good for the workers of Bord na Mona. It's no good to the workers of ESB. These people are not going to gain at all. Other entities may gain, but not the workers. These people are going to be left by the wayside. It's simply not good enough.”