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Future bleak for Mayo power project

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FALSE DAWN?Then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, pictured in June 2015, announcing the building of a new biomass power station in Killala with Mr Gerald C Crotty, Chairman of Mayo Renewable Power, the promoters of the project. Pic: Maxwells

Áine Ryan and Anton McNulty

TWELVE years since it was first proposed and after a litany of setbacks, the future of Mayo Renewable Power’s €250 million project in Killala once again hangs in the balance as energy regulator CRU (Commission for Regulation of Utilities) downgraded the project to an energy-efficiency status of 18 percent.  
The beleaguered project had previously been given a 100 percent energy efficiency certificate by the former regulatory body, CER (Commission for Energy Regulation), however, last Friday CRU issued a certificate which may now be the death knell for the project.
Criticising the decision, Fine Gael’s Senator Michelle Mulherin told The Mayo News yesterday: “The way the energy regulator has dealt with this application makes it hard to do business in this country and creates a further obstacle to attracting investment and jobs to our region. I am demanding that the regulator be brought before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to answer questions and account for its handling of the application.”
She cited the fact that the project would be up-and-running now, with a cert of 100 percent, if it had not got into financial difficulties in 2016. Seanator Mulherin explained that the developers of the project had appointed expert consultants who oversaw such projects globally and that the proposal had not changed materially since CER granted the original certificate.

Bleak outlook
Speaking to The Mayo News also yesterday, local councillor Jarlath Munnelly said the future looked bleak for the project.
“I’m disappointed at this setback but the former Asahi site still has lots of development potential. At present there is an Irish Water sewage treatment plant and a community-owned wind farm both under construction on the site, I’d like Mayo County Council to work on my proposal to turn the site into an SDZ (Strategic Development Zone),” Cllr Munnelly said.
Responding to a question by Cllr Munnelly during the January monthly meeting of Mayo County Council’s Chief Executive, Peter Hynes, said: “The item which is currently in log jam is the licence renewal from the CRU. The factual situation on that is the licences were issued by the then CER back in 2012. They became CRU when they took over the water regulation and a new application had to be lodged for some reason. That was lodged eight months ago. The project as I understand it is the same project in all material extent as the project licensed in 2012. The CRU are currently dealing with the application and we wrote to them as recently as last week for an update on when the new licences will be expected to be issued. If that logjam can be broken and that project can be put on site,  an enormous amount of goodwill will flow into the region and it will drive development on the far side of Ballina.”

History
THE project was  first mooted by the late Fine Gael senator, Myles Staunton in the mid 2000s. The project received planning permission from Mayo County Council in late 2007, subject to 43 conditions. However, An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for the project in 2008 and Mayo Renewable Power submitted a modified application in November 2010, with planning permission granted in 2011.