US and UK environmental groups call for closure of Offaly power stations
A number of environmental groups from the US and UK have mounted opposition to an ESB succession plan to burn biomass at Offaly power stations beyond 2020 and called for the closure of such plants.
Environmental activist groups like the Dogwood Alliance from the US and Biofuelwatch in the UK object to a planning application aimed at introducing biomass burning at West Offaly Power Station along similar lines to conversions made at Edenderry Power Station.
The groups object on the grounds that burning peat in power stations for another seven years and then converting to "yet another high-carbon-emitting form of energy is incompatible with Ireland’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments, and puts an undue burden on forests that serve as carbon sinks and habitat for precious biodiversity."
They say the ESB’s claims that they will be increasingly reliant on indigenous biomass "flatly contradicts evidence given by Bord na Móna to the Joint Committee on Climate Action last November."
They say that the prospect of Bord na Móna supplying over 400,000 tonnes of biomass is impossible with further plantings, suggesting that a sizeable proportion of the biomass burning material will have to be imported. At a recent meeting of Offaly County Council, members called on management to fight for a scheme that would incentivise farmers to produce the willow needed for biomass burning in Offaly.
US group Dogwood Alliance is a group aimed at "protecting southern forests and communities from destructive industrial logging." They suggest the southern US is the world's largest pellet exporter and currently best positioned to meet the demand for burning large-scale biomass at West Offaly.
The group says wood pellet production increases pressures on "one of the most biodiverse and unique hardwood forest and wetland ecosystems in the world." Importation plans have not yet been confirmed by the ESB or Bord na Móna. The Dogwood Alliance wants forests to be protected to mitigate climate change.
Rita Frost from Dogwood Alliance states: “If Ireland wants to make real emissions cuts, they must heed scientists’ overwhelming conclusion that burning biomass will worsen climate change and increase emissions in the atmosphere for decades."
"Forests in the southern U.S. have been destroyed in the name of ‘green energy’ for far too long. Local communities facing forest destruction for biomass production will tell you that our forests need to be left standing for carbon sequestration, clean air and water, habitat, and to protect our communities from flooding and storms.”
Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch adds: “The science clearly shows that burning either peat or forest wood is not compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement’s aim to keep warming to within 1.5 degrees. Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change requires a rapid phase-out of high carbon fuels. Both peat and forest wood result in carbon emissions no lower than those from coal.”
A planning proposal to convert West Offaly Power to biomass will be considered over the coming months.