In DepthEnergy and Ecology

Ireland slashes peat power to lower emissions

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1222-1223
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6420.1222

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Summary

In Ireland, peat—a carbon-rich soil harvested from drained bogs—has been used for centuries to warm homes and fire whiskey distilleries. For a country with little coal, oil, and gas, peat—deep layers of partially decayed moss and other plant matter—is also a ready fuel for power plants. Peat power peaked in the 1960s, providing 40% of Ireland's electricity. But peat is particularly polluting. Burning it for electricity emits more carbon dioxide than coal, and nearly twice as much as natural gas. In 2016, peat generated nearly 8% of Ireland's electricity, but was responsible for 20% of that sector's carbon emissions. Peat power is now being phased out. By the end of 2019, the Irish government will eliminate all of the roughly €100 million in annual industry subsidies it now pays for peat-generated electricity. Bord na Móna, a company that supplies peat to the three remaining power stations burning it for electricity, announced in October that it would cut its peat supply for electricity by a third by 2020 and end it completely by 2027. Ireland will need to find alternative, lower carbon sources of electricity. And the approximately 60 bogs no longer needed for fuel will undergo rehabilitation, some converted back to wetlands and others put to commercial uses such as land for wind farms.