OREANDA-NEWS.  Ireland's state-controlled utility, Electricity Supply Board (ESB), plans to co-fire biomass at its two peat-fired power plants.

ESB has applied for support under Ireland's Refit3 renewable energy subsidy scheme, which will enable its 100MW Lough Ree and 135MW West Offaly peat-fired plants to co-fire up to 30pc biomass. The government's department of communications, energy and natural resources (DCENR) is reviewing the application, but was unable to give a timeline on when a decision would be made.

The utility's public service obligations for its peat-fired plants — a levy that supports peat-fired power generation — expire in 2019 and ESB is working in partnership with 95pc state-owned Irish utility Bord na Mona to explore options for commercial plant operation after 2019. Using larger amounts of biomass could be one option.

The Irish government supports peat-fired power plants' transition to burning greater amounts of biomass, the DCENR said.

ESB "would welcome a staged increase in the 30pc limit to enable the planned transition from peat to fully renewable generation", it said. It sees no technical obstacles to co-firing a higher percentage of biomass.

The utility expects to import up to 50pc of its biomass needs initially, because there is insufficient domestic supply. A move to locally sourced biomass would require supply side policy measures to encourage the production of suitable energy crops, such as willow, and the sustainable utilisation of existing timber stocks and forest residues, ESB said.

The government wants to work with the biomass industry to develop a sustainable indigenous supply chain, the DCENR said. Ireland's draft 2015 Bioenergy Plan outlined plans to support Irish biomass supply. The final plan should be published this year, the department said.