The first progress report of the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr Kieran Mulvey, was published on 22 May. The report reflects a comprehensive engagement with relevant stakeholders in the region, setting out the analysis of the challenges facing the Midlands region, and for Bord na Móna workers and their families and communities, arising from an accelerated exit from peat harvesting. The report contains important recommendations, including examining the renewable energy potential for the two power stations. As stated in the Government response to the Commissioner's report, the Department and ESB will commission a study to examine the potential for using the existing infrastructure in the West Offaly and Lough Ree power plans as an energy hub in the Midlands.
The decision of the ESB, in November 2019, to close West Offaly and Lough Ree Power stations followed an extensive review of all options and was based on the key planning, climate and commercial issues associated with generation at the sites. My Department has been informed by the company that the current planning permissions for the two sites include an obligation to decommission the power plant and to remediate the sites by the end of 2022 and that, prior to any development opportunity taking place, ESB must satisfy the legal obligation to remediate the existing sites.
As recommended in the Just Transition Commissioner's progress report, ESB engineering teams are considering alternative uses for which the existing site and facilities might be utilised. However, for clarity, the power plant equipment cannot be used for any purpose beyond December 2020 as neither the planning consents nor environmental licenses cover any such use.
The Government is acting on a number of the recommendations set out in the Commissioner's report, and is committed to preparing an implementation plan to address the remainder. A number of actions to implement the recommendations are already underway. This includes €20 million for a new energy efficiency retrofitting scheme in the Midlands, €5 million for peatland rehabilitation outside of the Bord na Móna estate, and €6 million for a dedicated new Just Transition Fund with ESB agreeing to contribute an additional €5 million to this Fund.