Minister urged to clarify that 'no intention to demolish Shannonbridge power station'
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called on Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, Eamon Ryan to confirm that there is no intention to demolish the Shannonbridge and Lough Ree power plants in the Midlands until a study into their ‘future potential’ has been conducted, as was recommended in the April 2020 report of Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey.
This follows the opening of a tendering process for the demolition of the plants by the ESB.
Both plants are scheduled to close at the end of 2020 and were to be demolished, in accordance with planning strictures. Both plants are of recent construction and considered ‘state of the art’ with Shannonbridge costing in excess of €200 million to build.
However, the interim report of Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey - delivered to Government in April - advised against the planned demolition and recommended that the plants be “maintained for up to a year” to explore other possible or potential uses.
The Just Transition Commissioner’s report specifically recommended: “Before the decommissioning and dismantling operation begins, I recommend that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the ESB and other relevant interests in the renewable energy sector should conduct a study of the future potential of these plants and sites for the establishment of a dedicated ‘Energy Hub’ in the Midlands.”
The report said the study could focus on how the plants could be utilised in terms of energy storage or exploring new technologies in energy provision which could create “high quality employment” in the area, to replace jobs already lost in the ongoing transition to low carbon.
The Commissioner also recommended consultation with An Bord Pleanála on the planned demolitions.
Speaking on behalf of the Congress Energy Sector Group, Coordinator Macdara Doyle said: “We need the Minister to clarify whether this crucial study has been carried out, as recommended and, if so, what the conclusions and findings are in respect of the future of the two plants.
“Both the previous and current government committed to implementing in full the recommendations of the Just Transition Commissioner’s report - including exploring the potential of these state of the art power plants, rather than proceeding with their wholesale demolition.”
Speaking on behalf of the Bord na Mona Group of Unions, Willie Noone said: “We have already seen over 1000 jobs lost in BnM and the Midlands as a result of the transition process. We have heard lots of promises but very little evidence of Just Transition on the ground, in terms of replacement jobs and new opportunities. If we act on the report’s recommendation we may have a chance of creating some new employment in the area. Razing these plants to the ground at this point, makes no sense.
Padraig Mooney, the Congress nominee on the Midlands Regional Transition Team (MRTT) - the regional body charged by government with overseeing the transition process - said: “It is our understanding that the Commissioner’s report was to be implemented in full, not partially. It makes no sense to demolish these vital pieces of energy infrastructure ahead of a full evaluation of how they might contribute to a low carbon economy, renewable energy creation and new jobs in the Midlands region.
“In addition, the advice we have heard from EU transition experts working with the MRTT is for a ‘review’ of BnM and ESB assets that could be beneficial to local development, so we need to see the study recommended by the Just Transition Commissioner carried out with some urgency,” he said.