Calls for EirGrid to answer questions on €10m ESB payment

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen used Dáil privilege to claim EirGrid paid €10m to the ESB on a contract which never transpired
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Philip Ryan

The national power grid operator, EirGrid, is coming under pressure to address concerns raised about its relationship with ESB.

EirGrid is refusing to answer questions about allegations made in the Dáil by two prominent TDs about a €10m payment linked to a contract worth €110m with the ESB.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen used Dáil privilege to claim EirGrid paid a €10m down payment to the ESB on the contract, which subsequently did not transpire.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly also raised concerns about the same alleged payment during Leader’s Question in the Dáil. They have both asked if the payment was returned to EirGrid.

However, despite repeated requests from the Irish Independent, EirGrid has refused to address the claims made against the national grid operator. Last night, Mr Cowen said he “retains the same concerns” he raised in the Dáil and called on EirGrid to address the allegations.

“It’s time for EirGrid, the ESB, Energy Minister Eamon Ryan and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) to address in writing the claims I have made in the Dáil,” Mr Cowen said.

“EirGrid remain silent on the central allegations which I raised and I think they should address the questions,” he added.

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin promised to seek details on the energy contract between EirGrid and the ESB to provide power that did not go ahead, when questioned in the Dáil.

In the Dáil, Mr Kelly asked how €10m “was paid by EirGrid to the ESB as a down payment” for emergency generation that did not transpire.

“How did this happen? Was it sanctioned by the minister and where is the money now?” he asked.

The Labour Party leader said he has serious concerns over energy supply, adding: “Over a decade ago, bad politics, horrendous politics and lack of regulation in banking destroyed this country.

“I’ve deep concerns about how our energy market has been regulated over the last number of years.”

EirGrid put out a contract during the summer for 200 megawatts of emergency power in anticipation of supply issues over the coming winter. The procurement process was challenged in the courts and subsequently did not go ahead.

Mr Cowen and Mr Kelly have both said a €10m payment was made to the ESB despite the contract not going ahead.

“It was going to cost €110m. 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,” Mr Kelly stated under Dáil privilege.

Mr Cowen also criticised what he called a “cosy” relationship between EirGrid and ESB during a Dáil debate.

During a Dáil speech, the former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister also claimed the ESB may have “orchestrated” the current energy crisis for its own financial benefit.

The ESB has rejected the comments made by Mr Cowen on supply issues and the EirGrid contract.

“ESB wholly rejects the comments made in respect of its relationship with EirGrid in the provision of emergency generation,” a spokesperson said.

Eamon Ryan’s spokesperson said he did not sanction any spending related to the ESB contract.

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