Offaly IFA Chairperson, Pat Walsh.

Outrage at reports of wood chips from Brazil going to Edenderry Power

As reports emerged this week of woodchips being shipped over 7,000 km from Brazil for use at Edenderry power station, Offaly IFA has said the “deafening silence” of rural TDs from the two main government parties “will not be forgotten” at the next general election.

“It’s a ridiculous situation to see peat production being stopped and rural communities all across the Midlands being devastated while, at the same time, woodchips are being transported half way across the world to keep the power plant in Edenderry running,” said Offaly IFA Chairman, Pat Walsh, “What sort of green policy is that?”

Mr Walsh said there is “nothing as mute as a rural politican” at the moment, and added that “everything is being done by stealth and we now have a situation in this country where the tail is wagging the dog”.

The Irish Farmers Journal reported this week that a Japanese-registered woodchip carrier arrived at Foynes Port in Limerick with a load of woodchips after a two-week voyage from Brazil, a distance of some 7,000 km. The report went on to say that the woodchips were then transported to the Bord na Móna plant in Edenderry in a “fleet of trucks” to be burned for the generation of electricity.

Independent Laois/Offaly TD, Carol Nolan, has been attempting to get clarity from Bord na Móna on their policy with regard to biomass and said this week that the statement she received from the company “lacks credibility and is extremely contradictory given the significant level of emissions that would surely be involved during the entire sourcing and transportation process”.

In the Bord na Móna statement issued to Deputy Nolan, the company stated that the Edenderry power plant will be “100% biomass-fuelled” by 2024. “A combination of biomass materials are required to produce the correct fuel mix for power generation. In order to achieve the necessary biomass mix to fuel the Edenderry Plant, Bord na Móna sources sustainable residual material predominantly from indigenous suppliers, and the remainder, which cannot be sourced locally due to volume and suitability constraints, is supplemented with material sourced internationally,” the statement continued.

Responding to the statement, Deputy Nolan said “it would appear that the company is prepared to “be involved in, or support the generation of high emissions elsewhere but just not at home” and said it is symptomatic of “a wider incoherence in its renewable policy more generally”.

The Irish Farmers Journal reported that the system of calculating carbon emissions means that the emissions generated by the woodchips imported from Brazil are actually counted in the country of origin, rather than at the point of destination. Critics of this policy, including Deputy Nolan, feel this system gives an unfair advantage to richer countries and distorts the true figure of carbon emissions worldwide.

In October of last year, the head of energy policy with Bord na Móna, Dr John Reilly, told the IrBEA National Bioenergy Conference that the company had plans to increase its use of forestry residues and sustainable biomass by 400,000 tonnes to produce electricity at Edenderry power plant.

Offaly IFA Chairman, Pat Walsh, said Bord na Móna are “selling themselves as a pure green energy company at the same time as they are closing down rural Ireland” through their “so-called green policies”.

He said the high-profile government campaign to encourage farmers in the Midlands to grow willow on their lands to supply power stations with biomass turned out to be “another disaster” and resulted in “huge losses” for the farmers who became involved. “There was no guaranteed market for the product and, mark my words, if farmers had been offered a proper deal they would have taken it up because we are fully prepared to do what’s expected of us to protect the environment.”

Mr Walsh said rural communities across the country, and particularly in Offaly, are “very angry” at the way they are being treated by the current government parties and the “deafening silence” of the local TDs from the two main political parties in government locally “has been noted”.