05 Jul 2022

Climate Action Plan highlights 'renewable energy hubs' aim for Midlands

Offaly council under pressure to drop wind farm buffer zones

A Bord na Mona wind farm on cutaway bog

The Government's new Climate Action Plan says renewable energy hubs in Laois and other counties have potential to generate power from wind and other renewable resources in communities.

The plan, which dedicates a chapter to the region because of the impact of moving a way from peat, also says 30 energy masterplans will have been developed in the counties within two years.

Much of the chapter given to the Laois and other counties outlines measures already take to transition away from the reliance on carbon producing peat as a power and heat source.

The plan points to alternative energy as a replacement supply.

The Government plan proposes: "the potential for renewable energy hubs in the Midlands through existing and planned investments by State-owned entities and support from Just Transition Fund".

It adds that the the renewable energy potential of the Midlands could be further developed using existing grid connected infrastructure, as well as greenfield investment opportunities.

It says Both Bord na Móna and the ESB have announced major investment plans for the region during 2021, which will support continued employment growth over the coming years. It adds that a number of private energy companies are also planning investments.

The plan says there will also be support for the development of community-based energy master planning, led by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

"This will provide a strong platform for community participation in future calls under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.

"The SEAI Sustainable Energy Communities Programme will provide support to Midlands’ communities, through local mentors and co-ordinators, to assist on their decarbonisation journey. The mentors provide free guidance on how to form a sustainable energy community and develop an energy master plan, including establishing a baseline for energy used in the community and a register of opportunities for projects.

"By the end of 2024, it is estimated that investment of €450,000 will have supported the development of 30 energy master plans in the Midlands region," says the plan.

The plan says the Midlands is the first region in Ireland to directly experience the negative impacts of the transition away from fossil fuels with the ending of peat extraction for power generation. It says peat extraction in Ireland is highly concentrated in the Midlands (counties Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath), and extends into adjoining counties, including Kildare, Roscommon, east Galway, and north Tipperary.

It says the exit from peat from power generation will bring climate, biodiversity and economic benefits. It adds that at least 1.25 million tonnes of carbon will be saved each year, and emissions will reduce by up to 9 million tonnes up to 2027 as a result of peat no longer being combusted in power stations.

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