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Sunday 28 May 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Alamy Stock Photo Labour's Alan Kelly told the Dáil that Eirgrid 'messed up' the tender for the emergency winter power contract.
# esb and eirgrid
'How did this happen?' Dáil hears further concerns about €10m emergency power contract payment
Last week, TD Barry Cowen alleged that the ESB may have “orchestrated” the current energy crisis for its own benefit.

ALLEGATIONS HAVE BEEN made in the Dáil for a second time in relation to energy regulation and the relationship between Eirgrid and the ESB.

Last week, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen alleged in the Dáil that EirGrid made a €10 million initial payment to the ESB on a €110 million contract.

He claimed the contract did not transpire following a court challenge, and he asked if the money had been repaid.

Speaking in the Dáil chamber last Wednesday, Cowen asked if a “cosy arrangement” between national grid operator EirGrid and the energy supplier is giving the ESB an unfair advantage over other firms.

“Could the ESB have orchestrated this crisis by exercising its market power knowing that it would be rewarded as I have outlined?’ he said.

Also in the Dáil this afternoon, Labour’s Alan Kelly raised similar concerns with the Taoiseach. 

“I have a deep concern, and I don’t say this lightly, about how our energy market has been regulated over the last number of years,” he said. 

He told the Taoiseach that there are a number of issues to be concerned about.

“On the direction from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) in May, Eirgrid put out a call for 200 megawatt emergency power – it was going to cost €110 million,” Kelly said.

“The plan was for these emergency gas operators to be in place for 22 weeks. The contract was awarded to ESB, but Eirgrid messed up the tender.

“Another company Tynagh Energy threatened to go to the High Court saying the procurement run by Eirgrid was anti-competitive, so the plan was abandoned.

The Labour leader also highlighted that the issue was raised by one the Taoiseach’s own TDs, Barry Cowen, last week. 

Kelly repeated the questions Cowen asked in the Dáil on that occasion. 

“How was €10 million paid by Eirgrid to ESB as a downpayment for these emergency generators? How did this happen? Was it sanctioned by the Minister [Eamon Ryan] and where is the money now?” he asked. 


The Journal asked Environment, Climate and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan to comment on the matter at a press conference at Government Buildings last Thursday, but he declined.

Today, Kelly asked the Taoiseach to confirm when the €10 million was paid and asked if the money has been refunded.

Micheál Martin said that there is governance surrounding the country’s energy supply, which Eirgrid and the CRU have responsibility for. 

“The Government no longer actually has legal powers to just directly intervene and do what it likes in terms of the energy markets,” he said. 

The Taoiseach also said it a short to medium-term risk to electricity security and supply for this winter has been identified if action is not taken.

He further said the department is working closely with the CRU and Eirgrid “to take necessary action”.

A need has also been identified for additional temporary energy generation, he confirmed, adding that both Eirgrid and CRU are “working on that basis in terms of procuring additional supply”.

Martin said he would supply any information needed to Kelly in relation to the concerns raised, but he said he “would not jump to conclusions” in relation to the matter. 

Kelly replied to the Taoiseach saying that too many energy companies are pulling out of the country. 

“Regulation isn’t working – it creates a huge crisis and that’s what we’re heading into. And it’s only working families that are going to pay for all of this, because it’s their bills that will go up because of this laissez faire attitude,” the Labour leader said.

However, Kelly welcomed the Taoiseach’s commitment to handing over any information to the €10 million payment “sanctioned by Eamon Ryan’s department”. 

On Friday afternoon, the ESB moved to reassure its staff following the allegations made in the Dáil last week that the semi-state may have “orchestrated” the current energy crisis for its own benefit, as claimed by Cowen.

ESB email

In an email to staff this week, the company reiterated its statement that the ESB “wholly rejects” Cowen’s assertions.

Last week, The Journal contacted the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications for a statement on the issues raised in the Dáil and was assured a lengthy statement providing context and explanation on the matters raised including the €10 million payment would be forthcoming.

However, the statement received said that if Cowen has any further information on any of the points raised the department would be happy to communicate this to Minister Ryan.

“It is the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (the CRU) that has statutory responsibility to monitor and take measures necessary to ensure the security of electricity supply in Ireland.

“The CRU is an independent statutory body and is solely accountable to a committee of the Oireachtas,” the department’s statement concluded.

The Journal has contacted the ESB and Eirgrid for comment.