Applications open for €11m fund for Midlands transition from peat to green energy

An €11 million fund to assist the Midlands region to move away from peat extraction towards green energy jobs and enterprises has opened, with calls for funding to be increased to €25 million next year.
Applications open for €11m fund for Midlands transition from peat to green energy

An €11 million fund to assist the Midlands region to move away from peat extraction towards green energy jobs and enterprises has opened, with calls for funding to be increased to €25 million next year.

The Just Transition Fund is for retraining staff from ESB and Bord na Móna plants being decommissioned and to consider proposals for green jobs and enterprises in the region.

There will be a two-stage process for accessing the €11 million fund launched by Environment Minister Richard Bruton on Friday.

- The first stage encourages applicants to register potential projects with the START engagement process through midlandsireland.ie

- The second stage will enable applicants seek funding from the Department from June 15.

On Friday, the Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey — appointed last year to assess how the region could save jobs and move towards green energy — published his first report and set of recommendations.

Environment Minister Richard Bruton said: “A detailed implementation plan will be prepared in response to the Report’s recommendations, however I believe we must take urgent action in some key areas. The Just Transition Fund is opening so we can get money to those who can make a big difference.”

Other elements of the Midlands plan include a €20 million retrofitting scheme to be piloted in the region and a retrofitting training programme; a €5 million bog rehabilitation programme; and a centre of excellence focusing on the role of peatlands in mitigating climate change.

The Department and ESB are also looking at the potential for using the West Offaly and Lough Ree power plants as an Energy Hub for the region.

Mr Mulvey said employment projects with green enterprise and other employment/tourism potential will be evaluated as a first step: “This period has to be used also to finalise the critical pathways for the retention of employment in Bord na Mona/ESB, give certainty around the future structure of the workforce and to establish further employment opportunities in the region”.

The former Labour Relations Commission CEO recommended that the transition fund be increased to €25m next year to support new priorities for 2021-2023 and that the increased funding "reflects the level of funding provided for the Border region in the context of Brexit".

Bord na Móna chief executive, Tom Donnellan, said the “very comprehensive report” will pave the way towards a new, sustainable, green economy for the region.

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

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