The Chief Executive of Bord na Móna, Tom Donnellan has said that Bord na Móna is "at the forefront of climate action in Ireland" while presenting more details of the company’s decarbonisation plans.
Last year, the company adopted the Brown to Green Strategy and the first phase of that plan saw the company position itself to become a key enabler of Ireland’s climate action policies.
Hundreds of jobs were lost in the move with local authorities in the Midlands setting up a transition forum to combat the losses and upskill laid off workers.
Today the company outlined how the next phase will support employees to transition away from peat based activities into opportunities in Bord na Móna’s green businesses and peatland rehabilitation activities, although voluntary redundancies are still on the table.
Speaking following the meeting of the company’s Board, the Chief Executive said:
“Bord na Móna is in the business of climate action. We are uniquely placed to help Ireland realise its climate action goals and are today outlining how we will achieve a fair and just transition for employees and communities in the Midlands.
"We launched our Brown to Green strategy last year with a mission to transition the company away from our traditional peat based activities towards a green, low carbon company that will play a leadership role in building Ireland’s green economy.
"The first phase of our plan restructured the company, paid down our debt and put in place a sound financial base to fund this transformation and our green investment programme.
"This next phase of our plan will see a €1.6 billion development programme that will benefit the Midlands and is strongly aligned to Government policies and comprises of:
"Investments of over €1.5 billion in renewable energy development to support Ireland’s 70% RES-E target and create up to 150 indirect construction jobs - the first part of this plan will be delivered when the €180m Oweninny wind farm becomes fully operational before the end of the year; Investments of over €60m in waste recycling and resource recovery to create approximately 100 new jobs; Investment of over €20m in new green business projects that have the potential to create between 150 and 300 new jobs over the next five years.
"By 2025, 80% of our employment base and revenue will come from green, low carbon and sustainable businesses," Mr Donnellan continued.
"This phase of our plan will also see a significant part of the workforce migrate into peatland rehabilitation and other opportunities as the volume of peat burned in the ESB power stations reduces and our peat related activities scale back.
"I can confirm we have concluded an agreement with ESB to supply peat to their two Midlands power stations through to the end of 2020.
"To provide opportunities for those impacted by the reduction in peat harvesting, we are in discussion with our Department about accelerating a programme of enhanced rehabilitation of peatlands that will see potential redeployment positions for approximately 200 employees.
"This will be the biggest peatland rehabilitation programme ever undertaken, is of international importance and will yield significant benefits in terms of biodiversity, carbon emissions mitigation and carbon sequestration.
"We will also create opportunities in our waste recycling businesses and our new green business projects. And as we redeploy people into new roles we will continue with the existing voluntary redundancy scheme, on a limited basis, to accommodate those people who wish to pursue new careers or educational opportunities.
"We will also provide a comprehensive training and employee supports for all involved in this transition.
Mr Donnellan said the support of Minister Bruton and the Government is crucial to ensuring Bord na Mona achieves a fair and equitable result for all.
"We look forward to working closely with the Just Transition Commissioner to be appointed by the Minister to work in a constructive way to deal with the challenges posed by decarbonisation.
"We will also continue our existing work with the Midlands Regional Transition Team, the Group of Unions, the Joint Industrial Relations Council (established under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission) and all stakeholders as we implement these plans.
"With today’s announcement I believe we have identified a pathway that involves us leading the way on climate action whilst demonstrating change can be achieved in a fair and just way."