Business and Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys is to direct the Mid West Regional Enterprise Group to co-ordinate a multi-agency strategy to deal with the transition of the Moneypoint power station to a sustainable green energy provider.
And, in a response to Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey, she said that this strategy should be led by Clare County Council and include an examination of the funding options available to help with the changeover to a low carbon economy.
Deputy Carey had asked Minister Humphreys to help establish a working group to protect jobs as well as identifying and creating alternative employment and investment in west Clare.
He emphasised the importance of Moneypoint as a critical driver of economic activity in Clare for more than three decades and the consequences of ESB’s commitment to cease coal burning at the power plant by 2025.
“It is essential that an alternative energy source is identified by the ESB and the necessary resources put in place to use an alternative power supply, be it off-shore wind or biomass etc to produce electricity at this key site on the ESB network. This plan should be communicated to the workforce and wider community at the earliest opportunity ensuring that Moneypoint can continue to play a pivotal role in west Clare into the future,” he explained.
He told Minister Humphreys that the first step should be for the Mid West Regional Enterprise Group to bring all stakeholders together in a working group that should include the ESB, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Clare County Council, local public representatives and Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation and the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Enviroment.
“The necessary transition away from carbon-intensive electricity generation is leaving Clare and other counties such as Offaly and Longford facing large job losses. There needs to be a comprehensive strategic plan drawn up to help communities in the fast approaching transition.
“It is my belief that a high level Government led Economic Taskforce is required to help manage a ‘just transition’ drawing on all available funding opportunities such as the EU just transition fund to help manage this required change.
“In a recent Dáil debate, Communications, Climate Action and Environment Minister Richard Bruton told both myself and Deputy Timmy Dooley that the ESB has the capacity to develop sectors such as biomass or offshore energy and was a key player in developing the assets at Moneypoint,” Deputy Carey added.
In her response, Minister Humphreys said that the Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid West was extremely relevant and timely in the context of potential challenges posed by ESB’s announcement in the immediate to longer term. In addition, under the recently published Climate Action Plan, the regional steering committees have been asked to consider a ‘just transition’ from their region’s standpoint.
“In relation to the specific issues and future of the Moneypoint facility itself, the model in place for the Midlands in the context of Bord na Móna’s ‘Brown to Green’ strategy is indeed pertinent and should be given consideration by Clare County Council. Here, a regional transition team has been established under the leadership of Offaly County Council, which involves Bord na Móna centrally in the process, along with a range of relevant stakeholders, A work programme has been developed and is in the process of being rolled out. The transition team is supported under the regional enterprise plan for the Midlands, and updates on its work are provided to the regional steering committee.
“I would suggest that the approach in County Offaly be looked at as an approach for Moneypoint, and it would be desirable that Clare County Council would set things in motion in that regard. I will write to the Midwest Regional steering committee chairperson Barry O’Sullivan over the coming days to ensure that the proposed transition team will have the full support of the relevant regional stakeholders”, the Minister concluded.