Moneypoint Power Station
The History of Moneypoint
Located near Kilrush on the Shannon Estuary, Moneypoint is Ireland’s largest generation station with an installed capacity of 915MW. Principally a coal-fired station, it was commissioned between 1985 and 1987 by ESB to meet increasing demand for electricity, reduce Ireland’s dependence on imported heavy fuel oil (HFO) and mitigate the impact of the 1970s oil crises.
With the potential to store sufficient coal for up to three months of operation, the station provides fuel diversity and a dependable source of energy in a sector increasingly dependent on variable renewable resources of energy such as wind and solar, and separately, natural gas.
Moneypoint has evolved and responded to changing environmental standards and the needs of a decarbonising electricity system. As Moneypoint aged and new, more efficient, gas generators were added to the system in the early 2000s, the amount of electricity produced from Moneypoint declined.
ESB has continued to invest in Moneypoint in response to a changing electricity system and national policy as follows:
- In 2008, in line with EU best practices, ESB installed equipment to significantly improve the emissions from Moneypoint.
- In 2017/2018, ESB installed five wind turbines at Moneypoint, capable of producing over 17MW of renewable electricity, enough to power 10,000 homes.
- In 2022, ESB installed a synchronous condenser, a zero-carbon grid stabilising technology that allows the electricity system to operate at higher levels of renewables, representing an investment of €50m.
The electricity security offered by Moneypoint has been evident in recent years when a combination of factors, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saw an increased demand in electricity generation from the station to help meet system needs.
ESB has long signalled its intent to cease burning coal at Moneypoint by the end of 2025. The site remains an important part of our Net Zero by 2040 strategy. In 2021, ESB announced Green Atlantic @Moneypoint, which will see the site redeveloped into a renewables hub which will include:
- 1,400 MW offshore wind farm, delivered in two phases
- A wind turbine construction and service hub
- The development of green hydrogen production, storage and generation facility
As previously stated, ESB has long signalled its intent that Moneypoint will exit coal fired generation by the end of 2025.
In response to a security of electricity supply need identified by EirGrid and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), in August 2023, ESB and EirGrid signed an agreement to make Moneypoint available as an out-of-market generator of last resort from 2025 to 2029. To meet this period of operation, ESB is planning to convert the station to run on oil for the period of 2025 to 2029. Oil is less carbon intensive than coal and the Moneypoint units can operate solely on oil.
As an out-of-market generator of last resort, Moneypoint will not be active in the wholesale electricity market but will be available to operate, at the instruction of EirGrid, as a backup to the system in the event of a shortage of generation capacity.
It is expected that over 2,000MW of new generation will come online this decade, and this will end the need for the existing Moneypoint facility to be to be available.
For so long as we continue to source coal for Moneypoint, this will be purchased on the international market through registered procurement companies, utility trading business units and specialist traders. As the station requires a specific type of coal for its operation, there are a limited number of mines globally that can meet those specifications.
Over the last decade, the predominant sources of coal for Moneypoint have been from Colombia (principally from the Cerrejón mine) and Russia. In the period up to 2020, ESB shifted away from use of Colombian coal and Russia was the primary source of supply. In fact, Moneypoint had not taken delivery of any coal from Colombia in the period from 2018 to early 2022. However, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ESB switched procurement of coal away from Russia. At that time, ESB had to quickly source alternative supplies to ensure Moneypoint was available to meet the needs of the Irish electricity system. Due to the lack of suitable coal being available from other sources at that time, ESB secured replacement coal for Moneypoint from Cerrejon to ensure uninterrupted supplies were available to support the security of supply needs within the State.
Since then, ESB has supplemented its sources of coal to include South Africa and Australia, subject to availability of these coals on the market. Until such time as coal is no longer used at Moneypoint (2025) and to ensure Ireland’s security of supply needs are met, ESB may need to secure coal from Colombia if alternative sources are not available.
To ensure we source coal in an ethical and responsible way on the international market, as well as addressing concerns about operations at such coal sites, ESB joined Bettercoal in 2014.
Bettercoal was established in 2012 by a group of major coal buyers, including utilities. Its mission is to promote continuous improvement in mining and sourcing coal for the benefit of all the people affected by the industry – including workers and their communities. In effect, it is working towards a globally responsible coal supply chain. More information on Bettercoal and their work in relation to assessments of the aforementioned Cerrejón mine is available here.In 2018, Bettercoal set up Country Working Groups (CWG) to facilitate a more coordinated approach to the monitoring of Continuous Improvement Plans (CIP), as well as building knowledge and measuring impact on the ground. Colombia and Russia were the first Country Working Groups established with a South African Working Group being established in 2022.
The CWG comprises members EnBW, Enel, ESB, Fortum, RWE, Vattenfall, and is chaired by Uniper. The CWGs purpose and objectives are outlined in their Terms of Reference, available here and its 2022 progress report can be found here.
Bettercoal has developed a rigorous assurance system to ensure that the performance data we build around Bettercoal producers is as robust and accurate as possible. Lead assessors, independent specialists trained in our Standard, are critical to our assessment and assurance processes. They assess coal producers on-site against the 12 principles and 144 provisions of the Bettercoal Standard and develop the Continuous Improvement Plans (CIP) that each of the producers then work to meet. Producers are assessed every four years, and throughout the cycle they regularly submit evidence which is then reviewed by the assessors to verify whether it meets the expectations of the CIP. For some items to be considered closed, an on-site verification visit is required.
In 2018, Bettercoal assessed Cerrejón in detail across 31 criteria which include human rights, workers’ rights, ethics, community engagement, environment, pollution, biodiversity and compliance with laws and regulations. The assessment was carried out through interviews with key stakeholders including management, staff, community and trade unions.
This assessment found that Cerrejón meets requirements in relation to 15 of the criteria; substantially meets the requirements in relation to a further 12 criteria, and partially meets the requirements on further four. The assessment does not record any misses or fails for any of the criteria. The public report can be viewed here.
Based on the assessment the assessor and the mining company agreed a Continuous Improvement Plan (CIP) to address 29 areas identified where the mining operation has not fully met the Bettercoal code. The CIP is independently monitored by the assessor. Of the 29 items agreed in the CIP, 28 are now closed with a single item remaining open and being worked on by the mine. Fifteen of the closed items will be fully closed once on-site verification has happened.
In 2022, ESB as part of the Colombia Working Group (CWG) embarked on an in-person engagement programme in Colombia, facilitating meaningful discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, including producers, community groups, dialogue organisations, government representatives, ambassadors, and business organisations. These engagements deepened our understanding of the local context and inform the future work programme.
ESB believes that its active membership of Bettercoal provides the best platform to achieve continuous improvement in the mining industry.
ESB is aware of Colombia’s difficult history which has had severe impacts on its people over many years. We are also aware of issues reported in the media in relation to the Cerrejón mine, many of which are related to Colombia’s history. We are committed to remaining vigilant on all these issues and will continue to engage with Bettercoal to exert influence and drive improvements. We bring such issues to Bettercoal for their assessment as a matter of course.