ESB profit more than doubles amid high wholesale electricity prices

State energy company to pay €327m dividend to exchequer bringing total payments over past decade to almost €1.5 billion

Any reduction in families’ energy bills will require a “sustained fall” in wholesale electricity prices, said ESB chief financial officer Paul Stapleton.

Profits after tax at the State-owned electricity supplier more than doubled to €649.3 million last year from €265.9 million in 2021. Revenue increased to €7.6 billion from €5.2 billion.

The company reported that high wholesale prices here and in Britain boosted operating profit from its generating and trading arm by €590 million to €774 million last year.

Speaking after ESB published the results on Wednesday, Mr Stapleton cautioned that it was not possible to say when the group’s Electric Ireland subsidiary could start cutting the rates it charges householders.


He said the company needed “to see a sustained reduction” in wholesale prices before it could begin passing on these savings to domestic customers.

Global gas prices drive the cost of Irish electricity. These have fallen sharply from a peak in August, but remain at around two to 2.5 times what they were before the energy crisis began.

Irish wholesale electricity prices followed a similar trend, falling from a late summer peak until increases in November and December, before sliding again this year.

Mr Stapleton pointed out the gas used to generate electricity that families now consume could have been bought as long as a year ago, so it would take time for current trends to feed through to household rates.

ESB’s supply division, including Electric Ireland and a British business, lost €109 million last year as it gave Irish residential customers €50 credit each while the UK capped prices.

Legislation obliges ESB to operate Electric Ireland separately from its generating business, so the group cannot use the profits earned by that division here and in Britain to subsidise price cuts.

Its chief financial officer acknowledged that government “caps” on revenues in the Republic and UK could hit profits from electricity generation this year.

“We think it’s a sensible intervention by the Government, but it will impact on ESB generation,” he predicted.

Government plans to cap revenues from wind, solar, coal and other generators that do not burn gas to produce electricity.

The proposed legislation targets these generators as they benefit from high prices but do not have to buy gas, so are earning higher-than-normal profits.

ESB will pay the State a €327 million dividend, more than twice the €126 million it handed over last year, bringing total payments to the exchequer over the last decade to almost €1.5 billion.

The group invested €1.4 billion last year and plans to spend a similar sum in 2023. This will include temporary emergency generators in North Wall, Dublin, and Shannonbridge in Co Offaly.

Other projects under way include gas-fired generators in Dublin that will produce 180 megawatts of electricity and battery storage in the capital and Cork.

ESB is investing in several offshore wind projects, including the Oriel wind farm off the Co Louth coast, which it is building jointly with Parkwind.

The pair are investigating the feasibility of a similar development, Clogherhead, in the same area of the Irish Sea.

ESB plans for wind farms off the south and west coasts are at various stages of development.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas