01 Oct 2022

Offaly councillors call for Shannonbridge Power Station to reopen

Offaly councillors call for Shannonbridge Power Station to reopen

Offaly councillors call for Shannonbridge Power Station to reopen

A NUMBER of councillors in Offaly County Council are calling for the re-opening of Shannonbridge Power Station.

The power station ceased production in December 2020 because of the government's decarbonisation programme, bringing to an end several decades of a lucrative peat harvesting industry in the West Offaly region.

The closure was seen as a good move by many as we grappled with Climate Change, but the Ukraine war, a fuel crisis and escalating prices have changed things.

Cllr Ken Smollen brought the following motion to Monday's monthly meeting of the Council: “That Offaly County Council calls on the Government to introduce legislation that will allow for the reopening of the power plant at Shannonbridge, even on a temporary basis until the current energy crisis comes to an end.” The motion was seconded and supported by several councillors.

“We are all very aware of the crisis afflicting energy,” said Cllr Smollen. “Some are predicting power cuts lasting from half an hour to four hours.”

The councillor questioned the rationale behind the closure of Shannonbridge. “It was hard to understand the reasoning at the time behind the decision to close the station,” he commented. “The reason given was Climate Change which would have been fair enough but we didn't actually have an adequate power supply replacement in place. It's nonsensical to shut something down and not have a decent replacement.”

Cllr Eamon Dooley said if the station was re-opened it wouldn't be burning peat. “That ship has sailed,” he remarked. “The Bord na Móna machinery has been sold, the bogs are being flooded, the rail tracks have been removed.”

Cllr Dooley pointed out that there's a live application for the dismantling of the station. “We should write to the ESB seeking either a withdrawal of that live application or an extension. While the peat ship has sailed, there is in fact a fluidised bed in the station which means it could burn biomass or coal. So, there are options.”

Cllr Mark Hackett voiced his opposition to the re-opening of the station. “What we need is renewable energy,” he said, “not going back to the past. If we start going backwards then we will be adversely judged by future generations.”

Cllr Neil Feighery said that was all very well but we need to be realistic. “Renewables are very good and they are a very positive thing, but they also don't meet all our energy needs at the moment. To meet our energy needs during the current crisis we are compelled to look beyond them. I think the government realises this. For example, Edenderry Power Station I am told is consuming vast amounts of diesel to produce energy. We can't remain too resolute in our ideals. There has to be a spirit of compromise, or else we won't be able to cope with the current energy crisis and rising cost of living.”

He said there are massive diesel generators in Edenderry Power Station which were supposed to be only used occasionally (during peak consumption times) but are now being used 24/7. Artic trucks are transporting vast amounts of diesel from Dublin Port to the Station's generators, in order to meet Ireland's energy demands. Cllr Feighery also talked about the option of Liquified Natural Gas Facilities.

Cllr John Clendennen pointed out that he has been on record since February 2020 as being someone trying to save Shannonbridge Power Station. “I have called for the station to be saved many times,” he said. “When it comes to the station's future I have never been convinced that all the possible avenues have been explored fully by the powers that be.

“At the moment Heat Pumps are the only game in town for heating houses, but I think it is wrong to put all our eggs in one basket like this. Our tenants in our social houses should have solar panel options as well, but the government refuses to offer them this. Heat Pumps mean there is no need for solid fuel but they do rely on an electricity supply.”

Cllr Smollen said he totally agreed with Cllr Dooley. “The peat ship has indeed sailed, but every effort should be made to keep the plants at Shannonbridge and Lanesboro open. They could be powered by biomass, as Edenderry Power Station is.”

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