Bord na Móna announced yesterday (Wednesday) that Lough Ree Power Station would remain in operation until the end of 2020 after the company reached an agreement with the ESB.
There had been fears that the power station would cease operating at the end of this year when the State subsidy for burning peat comes to an end.
The company also announced that it would be investing €1.6 billion over ten years in projects such as renewable energy development, waste recycling and resource recovery. It said that there would be redeployment opportunities for up to 200 of its workers as well as up to 150 indirect construction jobs.
In addition, Bord na Móna also revealed that it would be re-opening its existing voluntary redundancy scheme, which was substantially oversubscribed when announced last year. It said it would provide comprehensive training and supports for those involved in the transition.
Reacting to the news, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said the company’s announcement didn’t go far enough to replace jobs lost due to the cessation of peat production.
He said: “Once again, people in the midlands are being faced with the prospect of redundancies being put forward as a solution, which is totally unacceptable”. Deputy Fitzmaurice said the reduction of peat production would be “hugely detrimental” and called on Minister Richard Bruton and the ESB to “stand up to the mark”.
“While the agreement revealed today for these peat-powered plants to run until the end of 2020 is welcome, it should provide a window of opportunity for planning permission to be sought to continue burning peat beyond that point,” he said.
He also raised concerns regarding the redeployment of employees to projects including the enhanced rehabilitation of peatlands.
“Personally, I cannot see where they see the potential for the redeployment of 200 employees in relation to this project. Where does it see the funding coming from for this project?”
Fine Gael Senator Maura Hopkins described yesterday’s announcement as an “important demonstration of commitment” to the midlands by Bord na Móna.
Senator Hopkins also highlighted the importance of maximising redeployment opportunities and extending the voluntary redundancy scheme.
Prior to Bord na Móna’s announcement, Independent TD Denis Naughten had warned that the region was facing “economic catastrophe” and called on Minister Bruton to provide reassurances to seasonal staff at the plant.