ESB submitted an application to An Bord Pleanála in 2018 seeking planning permission to transition West Offaly Power from peat to biomass, a renewable fuel, over a number of years starting in 2020. This planning application was rejected by An Bord Pleanála in July 2019. Since then, ESB has undertaken a review of the options for both West Offaly Power and Lough Ree Power stations post 2020 in the context of the requirements of the single electricity market (SEM). Having considered the key planning, environmental and commercial issues associated with peat and biomass, regrettably there is no viable business model beyond 2020.
Both stations will close by the end of December 2020.
As a commercial business, ESB is continuously reviewing opportunities for all our sites and assets. The two Midland Stations sites are valuable generation sites and as such, ESB is continuing to assess development opportunities for these sites. It should be noted prior to any development opportunity taking place and to enable future development, ESB must satisfy our planning requirements to remediate the existing sites.
In remediating the sites a number of commercial contracts are required, including those for specialist services. Due to the complexity of these services and the anticipated value of the contracts, they will be advertised through the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), an EU-wide process. This process has now commenced and will be done in a manner that ensures that ESB complies with EU procurement guidelines. ESB will continue to seek the best commercial value from the plant assets.
ESB continues to engage with our staff and stakeholders to prepare for an orderly closure of the stations. The Government is putting in place a Just Transition Fund for the Midlands region with ESB contributing €5m to this Fund.