EPA working to ensure ESB gets permits needed for new power plants

State company says it shelved proposed projects over environmental licensing delays

Environment regulators say they are working to ensure the ESB has the permits needed for proposed power plants that the State company maintains it shelved over licensing delays.

ESB blames delays in planning and environmental licences for a decision to halt plans for gas-fired electricity generators at Corduff, Poolbeg and Ringsend in Dublin.

The State's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed on Monday that it issued the ESB with a licence for Corduff in November, while it is working to ensure Poolbeg and Ringsend get their permits this year.

“The latest the EPA expects both to be finalised is mid-2022, which we have been working to in order to allow ESB to meet the project timelines of October 2022,” the agency said.


ESB said it halted plans last May to build the three plants, seen as critical to electricity supplies, as it could not get planning and licence consents on time to meet milestones set by the Single Electricity Market (SEM) Committee.

The three would have added 210 megawatts (MW) to supplies in the Dublin area, where the current squeeze on electricity supplies is at its tightest.

“ESB is continuing to consent projects at these sites with revised technologies with a view to competing in future auctions,” the company said on Monday.


The plants are among nine that the Single Electricity Market Committee contracted ESB to build in 2019, following an auction where the State company was the only successful bidder for payments to support new generators.

The State company abandoned plans for two plants at North Wall in Dublin in 2020 when a manufacturer was unable to supply it with parts that met EU emissions standards. It is still working on four battery storage systems in Dublin and Cork.

ESB applied to the EPA for the Poolbeg licence on April 8th last year and received planning permission for the site on June 22nd. It sought the Ringsend permit on March 29th and got planners’ go-ahead for that plant on August 6th.

The EPA said that it prioritised the Poolbeg and Ringsend applications after the ESB told the agency that both projects had to be operating by October 2022.

According to ESB, all plants that it agreed to build under the 2019 contracts had to be finished by October 1st this year, with a backstop “delivery date” of March 2024.

Any power plant that generates more than 50MW of electricity by burning fuel needs an environmental licence.


Regulators consider all applications in line with current laws, assess their impact on the environment and weigh submissions from interested parties, including the public.

“The EPA recognises the current challenges with regard to energy security and we are working proactively with all stakeholders in the relevant areas where the EPA has a statutory role,” said the agency.

The ESB sought payments of €46,150 to support the plants’ construction when it bid for them in 2019.

It subsequently emerged that the State company warned the SEM Committee that payments of €138,450, more than three times what the ESB bid, could deter new companies from entering the Irish market.

ESB bid for “capacity payments” paid monthly to electricity plants for being available to generate power when needed.

The sums are tied to each generator’s capacity. Auctions such as that run in 2019 favour companies that seek the lowest payments as the cost is ultimately passed on to electricity customers.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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