The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action has been told that the midland region faces new challenges to grow alternative sources of employment.

The committee heard from representatives of Offaly County Council, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and officials from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

ESB and Bord na Móna workers are set to lose their jobs as the ESB ceases peat-fired power generation at its plants in the midlands.

Assistant secretary at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Declan Hughes, said upskilling and retraining for the workers affected will be challenging.

Mr Hughes said the department has stepped up its engagement in the midlands region and that "real work is being done to bring forward new jobs".

Aileen Duffy from the SEAI said that "for the just transition to be a success there's a critical need to understand, include and empower rather than merely impose."

CEO of the midlands regional transition team at Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney, told the committee that she welcomed the announcement of the first Just Transition Commissioner Kieran Mulvey.

Ms Delaney said the team is facing a huge challenge as it initially thought it would have a 15 year transition period but now it only has 13 months.

She said that under the START programme, technical assistance will be provided and experts are to undertake site visits early next month to develop "a holistic plan for a just transition for the midlands region".

She added that numerous clinics have been held in bog communities to assist those employees impacted by the "decarbonisation agenda".

She said a skills, jobs and education boot camp was held in May in the Mount Lucas training centre which was very well attended by Bord na Móna employees who were exiting under the voluntary redundancy scheme.

The company and the council are also undertaking a scoping exercise to examine the possible expansion of the Lough Boora Discovery Park - which is operated by Bord na Móna - into an ecotourism destination.

The Government is to provide a Just Transition fund of €11m including the €5m pledge by the ESB which is targeted at the midlands to support retraining, reskilling, assisting local communities.

The Government has said a €20m for a scheme to retrofit houses in the area will provide jobs.

But speaking at the committee, Senator Paul Daly said: "When you listen to the commentary on this, it's as if everybody is going to walk out the gate of Bord na Móna and start retrofitting houses."

The committee also heard that there will be a significant hit to the rates base for both Offaly and Longford county councils.

For example, €2.8m in rates is paid per annum from the Shannonbridge power station to Offaly County Council.