Eirgrid spent €10m in 2018 on land for emergency power generator but site remains vacant

Land earmarked for emergency power plant still unused in spite of State facing squeeze in supplies

National grid operator Eirgrid paid €10 million four years ago for a site in Dublin that was earmarked for emergency power generation but still remains vacant, it has emerged.

Eirgrid bought the site in Huntstown, Co Dublin, in 2018 on the instructions of the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), to house an electricity generator after a dispute with both agencies prompted a threat from Energia owner Viridian to close its two nearby power plants.

The dispute between Viridian and Eirgrid and the CRU was resolved and the grid operator did not follow through on talks with a third party that had expressed interest in locating a natural gas-fired electricity generator there. Consequently the 27-acre plot of land remains vacant today at a time when the State is facing a squeeze in supplies.

The energy industry regulator instructed Eirgrid in January 2018 to buy land for generation to “mitigate the risk” of Viridian closing the two Huntstown plants, which generate about 750 mega watts of electricity between them.


Eirgrid and the CRU could face questions on the deal, and the fact that the site remains idle, on Tuesday when they face TDs and Senators at a hearing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Climate and Communications.

Security of supply

The committee will quiz both State organisations and Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, on the growing threat to security of electricity supplies in the Republic.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen questioned why Eirgrid had left the €10 million site vacant amid a growing squeeze on electricity supplies.

“I have asked several questions of Eirgrid and ESB regarding security of supply and emergency generation but answers are not forthcoming,” Mr Cowen said.

Mr Cowen has previously questioned ESB’s failure to build generators on time for this winter in line with deals done with Eirgrid.

He has also argued that its bidding behaviour in competitions for contracts to build power plants prevented other companies from taking part.

The ESB has denied both claims, saying planning delays and difficulties in sourcing equipment prevented it from completing these projects. It is still committed to building the power plants.

Huntstown plants

The row between Eirgrid and Viridian blew up in 2017 after one of the two Huntstown plants failed to secure a contract for standby payments from the grid operator in an auction overseen by the CRU.

The company appealed this to a statutory panel, which ruled in Viridian’s favour the following year on the grounds that Huntstown was needed to ensure security of electricity supplies to Dublin.

The panel’s ruling meant that the CRU had to allow Eirgrid agree a new contract with the Huntstown power plant.

The standby or “capacity” payments are made to power plants for being available to generate electricity, whether or not they are called on to produce it.

The payments are meant to encourage companies to build electricity generators and keep them operating.

While electricity demand was growing at the time, Eirgrid and the CRU believed planned competitions to secure new generators would ensure that there would be enough power to meet this.

However, energy companies’ failure to build new generators in the Republic, growing reliability problems with existing power stations and increased demand have left the State facing a squeeze in supplies.

The CRU last week proposed extra charges for using the electricity supply network at peak times in an effort to ease the problem.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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