KEVIN O’SULLIVAN Environment and Science Editor The coal-burning Moneypoint power station in Co Clare is to be kept open until 2029 because electricity produced there may be needed to maintain the security of national supplies despite the high level of carbon emissions it releases.
The move by the ESB to keep the plant operating for four years after it was due to be decommissioned could lead to a significant increase in emissions in the Irish energy sector, though the facility on the Shannon estuary is to be converted to use oil, which has a smaller carbon footprint.
It is understood that the ESB accepted the case for its retention “in the national interest”.
It has signed an agreement with grid operator EirGrid to make Moneypoint available as “an out-of-market generator of last resort”.
“This is part of a proposed suite of measures to address medium-term security of electricity supply needs identified by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities,” the State-owned ESB said.
Moneypoint will not be active in the wholesale electricity market beyond 2025, but will be available to operate, if required by EirGrid, as a back-up in the event of a shortage of generation capacity threatening security of electricity supply to customers, it added.
The ESB said Moneypoint would comply with EU emissions standards in the 2025-2029 period.
“The actual emissions of the station running on oil over this timeline will depend on the frequency and duration of operation.”
There are plans over the next decade to develop a multibillion-euro renewable energy hub at Moneypoint and to use the site to service two offshore wind farms using floating turbines with capacity to power 1.6 million homes under the ESB’s Green Atlantic project.
The four-year agreement would not impede the project, “which will help Ireland become a leader in green energy production in line with ESB’s commitment to achieving net zero by 2040,” the company said.
Some 2,000 megawatts of new electricity generation is expected to come online in the late 2020s, the ESB said, adding that this “will end the need for Moneypoint to be available to generate on oil”.
Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan said the switch to oil-based generation was likely to drive up emissions at a time when Ireland should be phasing out fossil fuels.
He said the key issue was whether Moneypoint could be ramped up and down quickly to balance the grid and support the use of renewables.
Ensuring energy security was challenging, he said, especially given increased demand from data centres, but fossil fuel use in power generation “has to be as little as possible”.