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€474 million in public money depended on Commissioner for Energy Regulator decision

category national | environment | press release author Friday January 17, 2020 22:01author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environment Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 16th Jan 2020

Release of Biomass Power Station records halted
€474 million in public money depended on Commissioner for Energy Regulator decision

The release of documentation concerning the Commissioner for Energy Regulation’s [CER] decision not to renew a 100% certificate of High Efficiency to Mayo Renewable Power Supply Ltd. for a proposed €255m high-efficiency biomass combined heat and power plant [HE CHP] in Killala, County Mayo was halted at the last moment by the Commissioner for Environmental Information [CEI].

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
16 January 2020

Release of Biomass Power Station records halted
€474 million in public money depended on Commissioner for Energy Regulator decision

The release of documentation concerning the Commissioner for Energy Regulation’s [CER] decision not to renew a 100% certificate of High Efficiency to Mayo Renewable Power Supply Ltd. for a proposed €255m high-efficiency biomass combined heat and power plant [HE CHP] in Killala, County Mayo was halted at the last moment by the Commissioner for Environmental Information [CEI].

The release was stopped after an appeal by an unnamed third party on the grounds that they ‘would be incriminated by the disclosure of the environmental information on 11 December, the day before the files were due to be transferred to the requestor, the environmental charity Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE].

First refused as a peat plant by An Bord Pleanala in 2008 as it "would be contrary to the national policy to reduce power generation from peat as a source of fuel", an approval was given to a revised proposal using imported wood chips and locally sourced biomass in 2012.

To be built at the old Ashai site, 350 jobs were promised in the construction phase. Up to 30 people were to be employed full-time at the plant and over 100 people employed indirectly in growing, harvesting, transport and other ancillary services associated with the plant. It was envisaged the operation would eventually create 350 jobs, with the 45 megawatt biomass plant supplying power to over 70,000 homes in the region.

Announced by the Taoiseach as ‘part of the recovery that is beginning to spread to every region of Ireland’ and ‘a vote of confidence in the Irish economy’ in 2015, the half-finished project went into liquidation in a year later with €125m of debt, €30m of which was owed to trade creditors.

It’s assets were sold in 2017 for a reported €10m to the original backers, American investor Gerald Crotty and associates, who applied for a renewal of the Certificate for a new company, Mayo Renewable, under the same ownership.

New consents were was given by Mayo County Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Electricity Supply Networks in 2018. However, the revised application led to the CER issuing a Certificate with a rate of 18% instead of the original 100% which put the commercial viability of the project in question.
HE CHP certificates allow payments under the renewable energy feed-in tariff REFIT. Renewable power producers are ensured of a minimum fixed price for the electricity they sell, funded by electricity customers through the public service obligation, PSO, levy charged to their electricity bills.

The original proposal used cheap imported wood pellets to dry Irish biomass yielding an expensive product, but the revised proposal took 70% of this product to replace the biomass, failing to meet the CRU statutory requirements for energy saving.

According to the presentation to the Oireachtas Committee by one of the Commissioners, ‘a plant of a similar scale to Mayo Renewable Limited, with a 100% certificate and operating at full output, could be in the order of €31.6 million annually, based on 2019 figures. If similar payments were made each year for the 15 years of the REFIT scheme, the total payable could amount to €474 million.’

FIE is a party to a case seeking to have the European Court of Justice review the European Commission’s approval of woody biomass for renewable energy subsidies.

ENDS

[1] https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/joint_committee_on_communications_climate_action_and_environment/2019-04-02/2/#spk_145
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