Moneypoint could burn coal past 2025 deadline, regulators say

ESB keeping power plant open beyond scheduled closure as a backup to strained electricity system

ESB’s Moneypoint power plant could continue to burn coal after the end of 2025, when the State company is due to switch the generators there to heavy fuel oil, regulators say.

The group is keeping Moneypoint open beyond its original scheduled closure in 2025 as an emergency backup to the strained Irish electricity supply network in a deal with national grid operator, EirGrid.

Part of the agreement states that the three generators at the Shannon Estuary plant should switch from coal to heavy fuel oil by the end of 2025 to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

However, a Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) document approving the deal states that it expects that “the Moneypoint units will remain in operation if necessary for security of supply in the event it is not possible to convert the units to heavy fuel oil”.


The ESB would not comment when asked if this was a possibility. The State company has to seek planning permission and licences from the Environmental Protection Agency to switch fuels at Moneypoint.

When the deal was announced last month, ESB said it was possible to run Moneypoint’s generators on heavy fuel oil.

Moneypoint will only function as an emergency backup to guarantee that the Republic does not run out of electricity and will not supply power to the market.

The deal could extend to March 2029, but the CRU says that at least some of the three individual generators at Moneypoint could shut in September 2027 or September 2028 if security of supply allows.

The Moneypoint arrangement is part of a programme to tackle a squeeze on Irish electricity supplies.

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications has secured planning permission for four emergency gas-fired power plants to bolster electricity supplies in the short term.

Rising demand combined with power plant closures and shutdowns began to put a squeeze on electricity supplies in 2020.

A failure to build proposed electricity generators aggravated the problem, forcing the department to seek emergency planning permission for temporary plants, two of them in Dublin.

Meanwhile, Bord Gáis Energy is joining ESB and dCarbonX in developing decommissioned natural gas reservoir at Kinsale, off the Cork coast, for large-scale green hydrogen storage.

The disused field will initially be used to store natural gas. The Republic has no facility to store this fuel, despite depending on it for about half its electricity needs.

Partners in the project intend ultimately using it to store green hydrogen, which could potentially be used in transport and industry.

Green hydrogen technology is still in its infancy, but the EU has committed to supporting its development with hundreds of billions of euro.

Tony O’Reilly, chief executive of dCarbonX, said Bord Gáis’s participation was a perfect fit given the company’s “extensive experience and exemplary track record operating in the Cork Harbour region”.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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