ESB pledges €2bn a year to cut greenhouse gas

State-owned group to invest in renewables, electric vehicle charging and hydrogen

State energy group ESB will spend up to €2 billion a year until the end of the decade on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The electricity and gas supplier pledged to reach “net zero”, where the amount of carbon emitted to the atmosphere equals that removed, by 2040.

Chief executive Paddy Hayes predicted on Monday that the initiative would require investment to rise up to €2 billion annually between this year and 2030.

“We have invested €1.3 billion this past year and the plan requires us to get that up to €1.8 billion and beyond to 2030,” he said after the strategy’s launch.


Mr Hayes confirmed that ESB is likely to borrow further cash to invest in its plans following the €500 million green bond it raised recently.

He stressed that the company would have to continue performing well financially to maintain a good credit rating, allowing it to borrow money from capital markets as it was needed.

ESB announced the plan at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Monday. It includes connecting enough renewable power to generate 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, close to peak demand in the Republic, to its networks over the next decade.

This will include the ESB’s own renewable projects as well as generators built by all investors.

ESB itself is involved in joint ventures in the Irish Sea, and onshore with fellow State company, forestry business Coillte, with which it plans to build wind farms with a total capacity of 1,000MW.

ESB is also investing in renewables overseas, including Neart na Gaoithe in the North Sea close to the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

Issues with the seabed at the site and delays in getting foundations for wind turbines from Italian group Saipem are holding up this development.

Mr Hayes conceded that ESB would prefer if Neart na Gaoithe was going smoothly, but stressed it was working closely with its partner in the project, French giant ÉDF, on dealing with the difficulties.

ESB will more than double its network of electric vehicle chargers to 3,000 from 1,350 by 2030.

Network access

Mr Hayes rejected any suggestion that this could create problems for any potential competitors in this business, as rivals have to seek access to the electricity supply system through a subsidiary, ESB Networks.

He pointed out that the networks business was closely regulated and treated all connection applications “in exactly the same way”.

ESB is considering using green hydrogen as a back-up to renewable electricity. Excess wind or solar power can be used to make the gas, which is produced by applying an electrical charge to water.

It can then be stored and used to power gas-fired generators during periods when renewable electricity is not available.

The group intends retrofitting 35,000 homes between now and the end of the decade.

Mr Hayes argued that ESB’s overall investment would cut customers’ bills in the longer term as it would end the Republic’s dependence on natural gas, the current high price of which is driving up electricity costs.

Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, cautioned that the time left to stabilise the climate was running out.

“I welcome the ambition and urgency shown by ESB in its Net Zero 2040 strategy that sets a clear direction and exercises leadership in tackling climate change,” he said.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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