ESB secures €235m European Investment Bank loan

17 Nov 2011

A wind farm in action

ESB is set to sign a new loan facility for €235m with the European Investment Bank (EIB) this afternoon. The loan will be used to fund ‘smart’ investment in Ireland’s electricity networks to improve transmission and distribution links from wind farms and to integrate more renewables to the networks.

The €235m loan will be used for ESB’s investment programme to develop smarter and more sustainable electricity network infrastructure in Ireland.

The loan from the European Union lending institution will provide 50pc funding for an investment programme of €470m, which is to be delivered by ESB Networks over two years.

ESB said today that the programme includes key projects to enhance transmission and distribution links from wind farms and to improve the efficiency and capability of the electricity networks to facilitate greater integration of renewable energy sources.

The programme also includes:

  • The technical design phase of a national smart metering programme.
  • The initial phase of installation of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across Ireland.
  • The provision of more than 270km of new high voltage lines to reinforce existing transmission links from the southwest, west and northwest of Ireland, which have significant wind generation capacity, to the main population centres in the east.
  • The doubling of the capacity of more than 8,000km of rural networks.
  • The installation of 140km of new distribution lines in Connemara, Co Galway, to relieve voltage problems in the area.

An ESB spokesperson said today that electricity distribution across the country would benefit from refurbishment and equipment replacement to meet growing demand.

ESB to sign loan today in Dublin

Plutarchos Sakellaris, European Investment Bank vice-president, and ESB chief executive, Padraig McManus, will sign the loan agreement at ESB head office later today on Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin City.

Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, TD, will also be at the signing ceremony.

Speaking earlier today, the Rabbitte touched on how the EIB has a “long-standing record of positive support for energy investment in Ireland”.

“It has already given funding to the transmission and distribution assets upgrade but with its previous support for construction of wind farms and the development of Aghada power plant in addition to supporting Ireland’s East-West interconnector,” Rabbitte said.

EIB’s vice-president Plutarchos Sakellaris said today that well-planned investment in electricity networks is essential to enable the effective use of renewable energy potential, improve energy efficiency through implementation of smart metres and encourage electric vehicle take-up.

“The European Investment Bank is committed to supporting improvements to energy supply and climate action in Ireland and welcomes ESB’s efforts to tackle energy challenges across the country,” he added.

Sustainable energy model

ESB’s Padraig McManus spoke about how this new loan will allow ESB to continue its “very substantial investment” in the electricity network infrastructure in Ireland and help the utility progress its plans to pioneer a more sustainable energy model for the future.

“ESB has invested more than €6bn in the electricity networks over the past 10 years, and we now have a very modern and robust network infrastructure,” he said.

“This next phase of investment will enable ESB Networks to handle the anticipated increased wind generation, as well as progressing our smart metering and electric vehicle infrastructure programmes.”

The EIB has previously provided finance to ESB for a number of large-scale energy projects in Ireland, including gas-fired generation, onshore wind farms and network investment programmes.

It has also funded other energy infrastructure projects in Ireland, including the gas networks and the construction of the East-West Interconnector between Ireland and Britain that’s due to be ready by the end of the year.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic