Midlands power stations could be transformed into clean energy hub

25 May 2020

Image: © gabe9000c/Stock.adobe.com

Peat power plants in the midlands could be transformed into a clean energy hub, according to a new report.

A series of recommendations, funding calls and proposals have been made as part of the first progress report from Ireland’s Just Transition Commissioner, Kieran Mulvey. Published by the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the report included the news that the department will commission a study to examine the potential for using the West Offaly and Lough Ree peat power plants as a renewable energy hub in the midlands.

Writing in his report, Mulvey said this would include looking at renewable energy storage and using this energy to support other renewables technology, as well as R&D from various academic institutions.

This could help “develop a ‘centre of excellence’ facility in the region, which would have the potential to collectively create high-quality employment and attendant spin-offs,” Mulvey wrote. “This will work alongside the use of State lands in the region for renewable energy projects.”

Minister Richard Bruton, TD, also announced the first call for proposals under the €11m Just Transition Fund. Five key priorities have been set out for the fund, including retraining workers and proposals to generate sustainable employment in green enterprise in the region.

“I am acutely aware of the impact an early exit from peat is having on workers and their families and on the midlands more broadly. Like many other businesses, Bord na Móna has also been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic which is compounding this impact,” Bruton said.

“A detailed implementation plan will be prepared in response to the report’s recommendations, however I believe we must take urgent action in some key areas. The Just Transition Fund is opening so we can get money to those who can make a big difference.”

Boost for electric vehicles

With just under 100 public electric vehicle charging sites across the eight midland counties, the minister called for an evaluation study on the expansion of the charging network in the midlands, as well as the rest of the country. This will come under the €20m fund for charging infrastructure announced as part of the Climate Action Fund.

Also, based on the report’s findings, the Government will look to grow the number of digital hubs and remote working spaces in the midlands, bolstered by 91 new broadband connections in the region over the coming months.

Mulvey said that there has been positive engagement from all the stakeholders in response to the report and “it is vital now that the process can move rapidly to an implementation plan”.

“I have adopted a ‘whole of midlands’ strategic approach with what I believe are practical actions across counties to maximise their infrastructural, natural and human resources, and building on their existing strengths,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic