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Challenge of Decarbonisation

Six Spot Burnet Moth on ThistleIn the context of emerging global policy on combating the threat of climate change, the European Union, and Ireland as a Member State, has set ambitious targets for decarbonising its economy.  It will achieve this mainly by moving progressively to low-carbon and zero carbon sources of energy.

Traditionally, Bord na Móna produced peat predominantly for use as a source of energy: initially in the form of sod turf for electricity generation and home heating; later as milled peat for power generation and home heating in the form of peat briquettes. Today, the company continues to produce peat for power, the manufacturing of peat briquettes for home heating, and it also trades in coal to supply the home heating market. Indeed, Bord na Móna sees its future very much in producing and supplying energy although it has diversified its business activities into markets other than energy, such as waste management and supplying substrates for both professional and hobby growers.

Furthermore, for a number of years already, Bord na Móna has embarked on a sustainability path that, among other things, means that the company is following a decarbonisation programme aimed at reducing the carbon emissions from the various business activities relating to the markets served by the company. Bord na Móna’s strategic development is focused primarily on renewable energy and resource recovery markets with a key objective of reducing the carbon intensity of all products.

Man holding Bord na Móna biomass pelletsIn looking at combustion emissions in the electricity generation sector, peat is the most carbon-intensive of the energy sources used. Bord na Móna commenced co-firing with biomass at its Edenderry Power Plant in 2008, and has steadily increased the proportion of biomass used in the fuel mix thus reducing the carbon footprint of the plant.

From 2016, Edenderry Station will operate as a Hybrid Plant and will co-fire with approximately 37% biomass. This will result in the station having net carbon emissions lower than a typical mid-merit generating unit on the Irish Grid – 744 kg CO2/MWh. Bord na Móna has also invested in a range of technologies that helps to reduce the average greenhouse gas emissions across its portfolio:

  • It owns and operates wind farms at Bellacorick, Mountlucas and Bruckana;
  • It has developed a landfill gas generating facility at Drehid, which captures methane produced by the landfilled waste and turns this into renewable electricity;
  • It is planning to invest in further wind farms developed on its cutaway peatlands, and also in Joint Ventures on lands owned Coillte;
  • It is also planning to invest in solar photovoltaic generation, once it becomes clear that solar forms part of the Irish renewable energy policy mix.

From 2019, Bord na Móna will supply less peat to the two ESB-owned peat stations, as these plants also begin to reduce their emissions through co-firing with biomass. In the longer term, as the price of carbon allowances increases, peat will cease to be a competitive form of primary energy and it will no longer be used for electricity generation in Ireland.