Electricity Supply Board

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Company The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) (Bord Soláthar na Leictreachais in Irish), sometimes called ESB Ireland to differentiate it from US utilities, is responsible for generating most of the electricity in the Republic of Ireland. The ESB currently has three interconnectors with Northern Ireland Electricity and the Irish Government has recently approved the construction of a subsea East-West Interconnector between Ireland and Wales.



The ESB was established by the fledgling Irish Free State government under the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1927 (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1927_27.html) to manage Ireland's electricity supply after the successful Shannon Scheme at Ardnacrusha. The scheme was Ireland's first electricity plant - and at the time, it was believed that it would meet the total energy demands of Ireland, which proved to be an erroneus judgement.

By 1937, plans were being finalised for the construction of several more hydro-electric plants. The plans called for stations at Poulaphouca, Golden Falls, Leixlip (all in Leinster), Clady, Cliff and Cathleen's Fall (between Belleek and Ballyshannon in County Donegal), Carrigadrohid and Inniscarra (in Munster). All these new plants were completed by 1949, and together harnessed approximately 75% of Ireland's inland water power potential. Many of these plants are still in operation — however their combined capacity falls far short of Ireland's modern needs.

With Ireland's towns and cities benefiting from electricity, the new government pushed the idea of Rural Electrification. Between 1946 and 1979, the ESB connected in excess of 420,000 customers in rural Ireland. The process was greatly helped in 1955 by the Electricity Supply Amendment Act, 1955 (http://acts2.oireachtas.ie/zza20y1955.1.html).

In 1947, the ESB, needing ever more generation capacity, built the North Wall station on a 7.5 acre (30,000 m²) site in Dublin's industrial Port area on the North side of the River Liffey on the site of an old oil refinery. The original station consisted of one 12.5 MW steam turbine that was originally purchased for a power station at Portarlington but instead used at North Wall.

Concerned about the risks of becoming dependent on imported fuel sources, the ESB - in partnership with Bord na Mona - established the Lanesboro power station in 1958. Located in County Longford, the plant burns peat, cut by Bord na Mona in the bogs of the Irish Midlands. In 1965 the Shannonbridge station was commissioned. Located not so far away near Athlone in County Westmeath, the station remains the largest peat-burning station (in megawatts) in Ireland.

Missing image
The major ESB stations in Ireland — the two largest being Poolbeg and Moneypoint

As in most countries, energy consumption is low at night and high during the day. Aware of the substantial waste of night-time capacity, the ESB commissioned the Turlough Hill pumped storage hydro-electric station in 1968. This station, located in County Wicklow, pumps water uphill at night with the excess energy created by other stations, and releases it downhill during the day to turn turbines. The station can store up to 292 MW of power - making it technically the 5th largest source of energy during the day in Ireland.

The 1970s brought about a continued increase in Ireland's industrialisation and with it, a greater demand for energy. This new demand was to be met by the construction of the country's two largest power stations — Poolbeg in 1971 and Moneypoint in 1979. The latter, in County Clare, remains Ireland's only coal-burning plant and can produce about 910 MW - just shy of the 1015 MW capacity of Poolbeg.

In 1991, the ESB established the ESB Archive to store historical documents relating to the company and its impact on Irish life.

On 8 September 2003, two of the last remaining places in Ireland unconnected to the national grid - Inishturbot and Inishturk (County Galway) islands (off the coast of Galway)- were finally connected to the mains supply. Some islands are still powered by small diesel-run power stations.

The ESB has had a monopoly in the Irish electricity market for the best part of a century. Under European Union legislation, the Irish electricity market is to be opened to full competition for domestic users in 2005. Business users have already been able to choose their electricity supplier for some years.

On 16 March 2005, the ESB announced that it is to sell its ShopElectric (ESB Retail) chain of shops, with the exception of the Dublin Fleet Street and Cork city centre outlets, to Bank of Scotland (Ireland), who will convert them into high street banks. Existing staff will be offered positions as bank tellers.


The ESB is one of the largest companies in Ireland and employs over 8,500 people, it is 5% owned by its workers - this ownership is know as ESB ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) Trustee Limited. The company is heavily unionised with the Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) being one of the largest unions in the company. The last major strike was in 1991, though strike action had been threatened as recently as February 2005 and often at times of industrial dispute. National surveys show, in line with other similar semi-state sector workers, that wages are above the national average - one recent survey [1] (http://www.rte.ie/business/2005/0207/mibusiness.html) showed that the average salary costs are twice the national average. It should also be remembered that workers of the company may be "on call" after hours, weekends and at holidays because of the unpredicability of emergencies.


The Shannon Scheme was the start of the ESB's reliance on German electro-technology, especially for plant, in particular Siemens and the associated 220 volt supply. Domestic equipment followed the UK British Standards for the most part with very few exceptions, perhaps the only one being that Irish bathrooms generally do not have cord-operated lights but rather a traditional light switch outside.


Although Ireland has no nuclear power plants, an Act of the Oireachtas in 1971 created the Nuclear Energy Board. Later there was a proposal to build a nuclear power plant at Carnsore Point, and preparatory work was carried out, but these never resulted in an operational plant, owing to widespread public opposition. Most of the ESB's generation capacity relies on peat, coal, oil, and wind generation. Moneypoint and Poolbeg are the two most significant fossil fuel power stations — their combined capacity accounts for over a third of total capacity. Much of the peat is supplied by Bord na Móna while Bord Gáis supplies gas via its network.

Missing image
Inniscarra hydro-electric dam, River Lee, Co. Cork

The Ardnacrusha hydro-electric scheme and Turlough Hill pumped storage scheme are the most significant renewable energy plants. There are additional hydro-electric schemes on the rivers Clady, Erne, Lee and Liffey. The company also operates a few small wind farms throughout the country through its subsidary Hibernia Wind Energy .

Capacity of Major ESB Plants

Generation Capacity [2] (http://www.esb.ie/main/about_esb/power_stations_intro.jsp) Plant Location Fuel Year Built
1,020 MWPoolbegCounty DublinOil and Gas 1971
915 MWMoneypointCounty ClareCoal 1979
620 MWTarbertCounty KerryOil 1969
525 MWAghadaCounty CorkGas 1950
292 MWTurlough HillCounty WicklowHydro/Pumped Storage 1968
266 MWNorth WallCounty DublinOil and Gas 1947
240 MWGreat IslandCounty WexfordOil 1967
125 MWShannonbridgeCounty WestmeathPeat1965
115 MWMarinaCounty CorkGas1953
86 MWArdnacrushaCounty Clare Hydro1927
85 MWLanesboroCounty LongfordPeat1934


Today the ESB consists of several distinct divisions: ESB Power Generation is responsible for electricity generation and has 19 power stations and a wind power subsidiary; ESB International (ESBI) manages projects abroad in the electricity supply, generation and distribution markets; ESB Networks manages the National Grid, and also transmits energy from other suppliers, including Airtricity; ESBI Computing manages large government and international information technology projects. ESB Retail operate a chain of high street electrical shops under the ShopElectric brand. These are to be sold to Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

It has been policy for some years that the ESB National Grid division, which owns the national grid, is to be separated into an independent Transmission System Operator, called Eirgrid plc. However agreement to accomplish this has been frequently delayed.

ESB has also been involved in telecommunications, as part owner of Ocean, a telecommunications company which was a joint venture with British Telecom. This was later acquired by Esat (now Esat BT), although the brand partially remains as an ISP service, oceanfree.net.

See also



  • R. O'Connor, J.A. Crutchfield, B.J. Whelan. Socio-Economic Impact of the Construction of the Esb Power-Station at Moneypoint, Co. Clare (Economic and Social Research Institute, 1981) ISBN 0707000416
  • Tim Hastings. Semi-States in Crisis: The Challenge for Industrial Relations in the ESB and Other Major Semi-State Companies (Oak Tree Press, 1994) ISBN 187285379X



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