The Irish planning board’s decision sends a powerful signal to EU member states that burning imported wood pellets is not a climate solution.
Yesterday afternoon, an Irish power plant that was the subject of heavy environmental criticism was refused permission to begin burning biomass by An Bord Pleanála, a court that has national oversight over local planning decisions. The board rejected ESB’s proposal for its facility in County Offaly. The power station which burns peat is set to close in December of 2020.
The company had proposed to extend the life of the facility until 2027 by burning biomass, most of which would have needed to be imported from the Southern United States. At the end of January, an open letter signed by 33 environmental NGOs objecting to biomass burning in Irish peat power stations and calling for those plants’ closure was submitted as part of an objection to the planning application.
“This was an important decision for Ireland signaling that they truly want to make real emissions cuts, heeding scientists’ overwhelming conclusion that burning biomass will worsen climate change and increase emissions in the atmosphere for decades,” said Rita Frost, Campaigns Director at Dogwood Alliance. “Forests in the Southern US have been destroyed in the name of ‘green energy’ for far too long. We are happy that An Bord Pleanála stood strong for local communities in County Offaly and here in the US.”
Two of the main reasons given by the planning board for rejecting the permit were specifically related to where and how the company would source its biomass. First, the “inadequacy of the indigenous biomass supply in the State to serve the development, and consequent high dependence on imported biomass contrary to European Union and national policy.” And second, the “lack of information or transparency on the location or impact of the biomass proposed to be sourced for progressive substitution for peat fuel.”
ESB had the opportunity to plan for the coming closure by helping the workers transition to the green economy, but instead decided to invest in extending the life of an antiquated power station by burning forests from around the world.
“Both the ESB and Bord an Móna have had ample time to advance a practical strategy to transition the midlands from destructive peat burning to employment in the sustainable energy transition,” said a statement released by An Taisce today, the National Trust of Ireland who have been working to close this facility and help the workers transition to the green economy. “For the Irish midlands this could include a major local community supported energy efficiency programme for dwellings, training ESB and Bord na Móna employees in e.g., insulation, retrofitting and renewable power sourced electric heat pump installation.”