Energy Institute

Do we need peat generation?

Peat is currently a useful indigenous fuel for power generation and has local economic and national security benefits. But it comes at a cost with considerable environmental disadvantages, notably the high greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants arising from its use and the damage caused to indigenous peat bogs1. This form of power generation is due to be phased out. Bord na Mona, Ireland’s biggest peat producer, has said it will not open any new bogs and it will cease its peat-extraction activities from existing bogs by 20302.

There are two primary reasons for our use of peat in power generation – the first is economic, the second one relates to security of supply. Peat generation creates and supports jobs and investment in the Midlands. It also guarantees a secure indigenous source of fuel for power that, thanks to the current low price of emission permits, is relatively competitive 3.

The country’s three peat-fired power stations accounted for 8.8% of our electricity requirements in 2014 and 12.6% of the energy input into electricity generation. With a 9.4% increase in peat used in generation in 2014, peat represented approximately 20% of the overall CO2 emissions per kWh of electricity supplied 4 (Fig. 14).

Figure 14. Emissions per kWh of Electricity Supplied; with Contribution by Fuel

SEAI (2015) Energy in Ireland 1990-2014. Available Online

  • Coal
  • Peat
  • Fuel oil and gas oil
  • Natural gas
  • Biomass
  • Waste

Under the current EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), large CO2 emitters have to buy emission permits at market rates. At present, the low price of these permits favours the continued use of coal and peat in electricity generation.

However, this is a temporary situation because EU-ETS reform aims to provide a stronger (higher) carbon price signal, which would make using high-emitting fossil fuels for power generation less attractive5.

A draft National Peatlands Strategy has been developed to determine an appropriate future for cutover bogs and relevant regulation to address peat extraction, taking into account ecological and emission concerns.   Some organisations have called for the phasing out of subsidies for peat, arguing that energy policy should not be about job creation 6.

Bord na Mona is currently rolling out a programme of biomass co-firing replacing peat with local, regionally sourced, and imported biomass 7 (Fig. 13) and is increasingly investing in renewable generation.

The importance of renewable sources such as wind, biomass and biogas is reflected in Bord na Mona’s 2014 electricity generation mix below.

Figure 13. Bord na Mona Electricity Generation Mix 2014


  • Distillate
  • Peat
  • Biomass
  • Biogas
  • Wind

The guaranteed price support for electricity from peat that is underwritten by the public service obligation (PSO) expired for Bord na Mona’s Edenderry plant in 2015, and biomass has now replaced around 30% of the peat used to fire that power station.

The PSO for the other two ESB peat-fired plants (in west Offaly and at Lough Ree) will expire in 2019 8, so it is unlikely that there will be any peat-only fired plants beyond 2020.