Viridian blocked from closing its Huntstown power plants

Proposed closure could affect security of electricity supplies, says regulator

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern  at the  opening of Viridian’s Huntstown power station in Dublin in 2003. The company wants to close its two Huntstown facilities with the loss of 40 jobs because one of them failed to secure  a new payments contract from Eirgrid.   Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the opening of Viridian’s Huntstown power station in Dublin in 2003. The company wants to close its two Huntstown facilities with the loss of 40 jobs because one of them failed to secure a new payments contract from Eirgrid. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Regulators have blocked the proposed closure of two power plants in Dublin next May as the move could hit security of electricity supplies.

Electricity supplier Viridian said last month that it would have to close its two plants at Huntstown, Co Dublin with the loss of 40 jobs after one facility failed to secure contract for new payments from national grid operator Eirgrid new payments from national grid operator Eirgrid.

However, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has refused to relax a requirement that Viridian give three years’ notice of plans to close power plants.

The rule applies to all electricity generators. Viridian asked the commission for a derogation from this, as it maintained that its power stations could not recover their costs from next May as a result of the Eirgrid decision.

A Viridian spokesman said that an Eirgrid assessment given to the CRU did not support its derogation request for the Huntstown power plants, because their closure would “almost immediately” make electricity supplies less secure and reliable.

He added that as the facilities could not recover their costs, “meaningful, substantive engagement with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the CRU and Eirgrid will be required to find a timely solution for the Huntstown plants”.

Standby payments

Eirgrid in the Republic and System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI), are cutting standby payments to generators by a total of €200 million in a reorganisation of the all-island energy market that begins in May.

They ran auctions last year to determine which plants would receive the payments. One of the two Huntstown plants was among a small number that failed to get a contract.

Viridian said that the move would force it to close both plants, which generate more than 700 megawatts of electricity between them, as they are closely integrated.

Electricity customers fund standby payments through their bills. Currently all plants receive them, even if they do not supply electricity, as the money is intended to ensure that there are enough generators to supply power in all circumstances.

However, the regulator and Eirgrid say that there is too much power-generating capacity in the country and want to limit the payments to the most efficient suppliers.