WEST Clare councillors are to write to the ESB to condemn the sourcing of coal from Russia for the Moneypoint power plant.
It comes against the backdrop of sanctions taken by western nations against Russia over its attack on Ukraine.
This coincides with the revelation that Russian coal accounted for almost all of the fuel consumed in Moneypoint in 2021.
Responding to Clare Champion queries, the ESB outlined prior to 2021, electricity generation from Moneypoint had reduced significantly, requiring only small quantities of coal in those years.
However, in 2021, a combination of factors saw an increase in electricity generation from Moneypoint to meet demand on the Irish electricity system, resulting in more than one million tons of coal being burned over that year. The ESB has seen that trend continue into the early part of 2022.
“ESB sources coal for Moneypoint on international markets. Russian coal accounted for almost all of the coal consumed in Moneypoint in 2021,” the company state.
“ESB has significant stock levels in Moneypoint currently. ESB has been monitoring the escalating situation in Ukraine carefully for some time and has taken actions in recent weeks to reduce the risk to coal stocks.
“ESB has discretion in terms of suppliers of coal, subject to normal commercial arrangements, the technical specification of the coal and the potential for imposition of sanctions.
“Alternative sources of coal to Russia are in place and ESB is expecting a number of major deliveries from those sources in the coming months,” said an ESB spokesman.
The spokesperson added that in light of current events, ESB will not be taking delivery of Russian coal for the foreseeable future.
The matter was raised by West Clare Municipal District chairman, Councillor Cillian Murphy who told a meeting of the West Clare Municipal District that the practice was “utterly inappropriate” in light of Russia’s aggression.
“I read in the papers and later confirmed locally that Moneypoint is shipping coal from Russia,” the Fianna Fáil member said.
“I think it would behove us as councillors to send a letter to the ESB to ask where the coal is coming from. There was a furore previously when it emerged coal was being sourced from South America where there were question marks over mining practices.”
“There is little that we can do in relation to the Ukraine situation, but we can stake our names to a piece of paper and make a small statement.”
Councillor Ian Lynch suggested that the letter might also be copied to the Harbour Master in Foynes.
Councillor Joe Garrihy also backed the proposal. He pointed out that Lisdoonvarna and Doolin had played host to teams of Special Olympians in the 2000s and that jerseys had been sourced for them in the Ukraine colours.
“It’s hard not to think of those people,” he said, “and to wonder where they are and how they are now. Anything we can do is welcome.”
Councillor Joe Killeen said he had received an offer of an apartment from a family in North Clare. “They would like to offer accommodation to a Ukrainian family,” he said. “Could this be channelled through Clare County Council?”
Responding, Councillor Murphy welcomed the fact that the door had been opened by government to people fleeing Ukraine, and he suggested the Department of Justice might be the body to coordinate accommodation.
Councillor Garrihy also noted the large number of collections taking place across the county, of goods to go to Ukraine.
He urged people to support the United Nations (UN) appeals, if possible. Councillor Lynch added that it was important to find out what kind of support was most appropriate.
“We heard an appeal on the national broadcaster for people to send money and not products,” he said.
“There is a job of work here for the media to find out exactly what is needed by the different agencies.”
Councillor Cillian Murphy noted that the meeting had become “a little geopolitical”, but said the few opportunities available to express support for Ukraine needed to be used.
“I was asked to raise this,” he said. “Whether this letter is heeded or not is a different kettle of fish, but we have to do what we can.”
Senior Executive Officer (SEO) John O’Malley agreed that a letter would be drawn up for councillors to sign.
Deputy Cathal Crowe said that Moneypoint Power Station should continue to function in the midst of an energy crisis and noted it should secure coal from suppliers whose country is not embroiled in the invasion of another country.
“We should not diminish the role of Moneypoint in any way until such time there is replacement capacity in terms of renewable energy.
“It needs to increase its production to meet our national needs. Where possible, Moneypoint should source coal from an ethical supplier that is not engaged in war.
“When people talk about global warming, they talk about shutting down peat and coal burning power stations. Electricity will then have to be brought over via the connector from England where a lot of this energy is generated from fossil fuels.
“We are not dealing with global warming in a global sense by taking action against Moneypoint if we pursue electricity in other countries that is created by fossil fuels.”
Additional reporting by Dan Danaher