As the island of Ireland seeks to address the challenges of climate change, decarbonisation of the energy sector and the facilitation of greater levels of renewables are key components of the strategies developed by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in the Republic and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland.
EPUK Investments (EP) is at the forefront of this ‘Just Transition’, with a plan to invest over £600 million in the development and operation of new flexible generation infrastructure that enables the island of Ireland to maximise electricity supplied from renewable energy.
Here Ian Luney, Commercial Director, sets out how the company is already decarbonising the grid and investing significantly to develop new electricity generation assets which will play an integral part in meeting renewable and climate change targets, while also maintaining security of supply to support a post covid green economic recovery.
The reliable supply of safe, affordable, and clean energy is essential for a thriving economy. At EP, we play a key role in this through generating the electricity which powers homes, businesses, hospitals, schools, and transport across the island of Ireland.
EP is a subsidiary of the EPH Group, one of the largest power producers in Europe, employing over 25,000 people and operating an installed capacity of around 26.5GW; EPH is also a leader in carbon reduction, responsible for removing over 12 per cent of the EU’s carbon emissions off the system between 2014-2018. We plan to continue this story through the decarbonisation and re-development of our operations on the island of Ireland.
EP currently has electricity generating assets in place at three strategically located sites at Tynagh, Ballylumford and Kilroot, which supply over 1,800MW to the grid. We are therefore a major, strategic part of the Irish energy market. To continue our efforts towards decarbonisation, our plans go beyond decommissioning as we seek to develop new infrastructure to provide sources of zero or low carbon emission dispatchable generation to further facilitate the progress to zero emissions.
Over the past number of years, EP has demonstrated a strong track record in the development, construction, and operation of power generation projects across the UK and Ireland. Recent examples have included the repowering of Lynemouth Power Station, which was converted from coal to biomass following a £300 million investment and is now the largest biomass-only facility in the UK, and a £53 million investment in South Humber Bank Power Station to improve the efficiency of the station, reduce its carbon emissions and extend its life.
In 2019, EP entered the Irish energy market, in June acquiring the Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations in Northern Ireland, and in October of the same year, acquiring the majority shareholding in the Tynagh Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plant near Galway. From this point, EP has focused on the optimisation and redevelopment of these strategic sites, formally committing to take coal off the system in 2023 and developing plans for new energy investment opportunities.
Kilroot Energy Park
EP’s proposed Kilroot Energy Park represents the largest single investment in electricity generation in Northern Ireland, with a range of renewable energy technologies and electricity generation solutions proposed. These include plans for new flexible dispatchable generation, battery storage, solar, EV charging, a multi-fuel CHP facility, a hydrogen facility, and a data centre.
The EP vision has the potential to generate at least 600MW of lower carbon and renewable energy, which is enough to power over 500,000 homes.
The investment in the site would also create hundreds of jobs and mark an historic milestone in the decarbonisation of electricity generation in Northern Ireland.
The transition from coal to clean, flexible gas
The first phase of the plan for the Kilroot site is the replacement of the existing coal fired generation plant with flexible, lower carbon gas fired open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) technology.
For many years, the coal fired generating plant at Kilroot has provided a strategic and important source of electricity for homes and businesses. The transition from coal to clean, flexible gas will ensure that the site continues to provide that essential security of electricity supply for Northern Ireland.
“The EP vision has the potential to generate at least 600MW of lower carbon and renewable energy, which is enough to power over 500,000 homes. The investment in the site would also create hundreds of jobs and mark an historic milestone in the decarbonisation of electricity generation in Northern Ireland.”
Importantly, the flexible nature of the OCGT technology enables greater utilisation of renewable energy generation on the grid and reduce curtailment. This new clean gas generation at Kilroot will be highly responsive and efficient, meaning that more wind generation and other intermittent renewables can be used on the grid with greater ease and more often than is currently possible.
The requirement for this type of generation has been brought into sharp focus over recent months with increasing concerns around security of electricity supply. If we are to effectively manage the energy transition and meet climate change targets without jeopardising security of supply, new flexible dispatchable gas generation will play a critical role, and EP’s investment will be the first to deliver this on the island of Ireland.
The emergence of hydrogen
Hydrogen has the potential to play a pivotal role in the future because it can be used to create, store, and transport energy from wind, solar and other renewable sources to power and heat homes, businesses, vehicles and more.
EP is proposing to build a hydrogen facility at one of our sites, which will produce hydrogen gas from water through the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen produced by the electrolysers can then be compressed and used on site or transported for use by other consumers. There are various uses for hydrogen including electricity generation, hydrogen vehicles, injection into the gas grid or for various other industrial applications.
We are committed to playing our part in the development of the emerging hydrogen sector which would allow Ireland and Northern Ireland to maximise the benefits of our high levels of renewable generation.
Data centre development
EP has recently announced the commissioning of expert research into the development of a major data centre on the site of the Kilroot Power Station by TechRE, an experienced specialist data centre consultancy.
The development of a data centre at Kilroot will support jobs, drive innovation, and bring investment to the area.
It is well known that data centres need to be close to sources of electricity generation, so the Kilroot site (with onsite generation and grid access for potential off-shore renewable technologies) is perfectly suited for this use and EP is committed to further explore the scalability of new technologies at each of our sites and diversify our investment portfolio to support the local economy.
Investing in a sustainable future
EP has an exciting pipeline of projects planned for the coming years with a willingness to invest and track record of delivery. We are looking forward to continuing to develop our sites in across the island of Ireland to realise our vision for powering a sustainable future.
For more information:
T: +44 (0) 28 9335 6206
W: www.epuki.co.uk; www.kilrootenergypark.com