ESB and the European Investment Bank have signed a new loan facility which will provide Eur235 million funding for ESB’s ambitious investment programme to develop smarter and more sustainable electricity network infrastructure in Ireland. The loan, from the European Union’s long-term lending institution, will provide 50% funding for an investment programme of Eur470 million which is to be delivered by ESB Networks over two years. 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, and the initial phase of installation of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles across Ireland.
“The European Investment Bank has a long standing record of positive support for energy investment in Ireland, not only with this present most welcome support for 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,” points out Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD.
”This new loan will enable ESB to continue its very substantial investment in the electricity network infrastructure in Ireland and help towards developing a more sustainable energy model for the future. ESB has invested more than Eur6 billion in the electricity networks over the past ten years, and we now have a very modern and robust network infrastructure,” comments ESB chief executive Padraig McManus. “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 programme will include the provision of over 270km of new high voltage lines to reinforce existing transmission links from the southwest, west and northwest of Ireland, which has significant wind generation capacity, to the main population centres in the east. Electricity distribution across the country will benefit from refurbishment and equipment replacement to meet growing demand. The capacity of more than 8,000km of rural networks will be doubled and 140km of new distribution lines will be installed in Connemara, Co. Galway to relieve voltage problems in the region.
The new investment programme for electricity distribution will also incorporate specific design requirements to enable mass deployment of smart meters across the country. Plans for a significant increase in electric car use in Ireland will be boosted by the installation of 1,500 on-street charging points and 2,000 domestic chargers.
The European Investment Bank 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. The Bank has also funded other energy infrastructure projects in Ireland including the gas networks and the construction of the electricity interconnector between Ireland and Britain.