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ESB posts £13m loss for gas-fired power plant in Londonderry

The Irish state-owned company that runs a gas-fired power plant in Londonderry has reported a pre-tax loss of £13m for 2018, new accounts show.

Coolkeeragh power station is solely owned by ESB, which is 95% owned by the Republic's government. In 2010 ESB acquired NIE Networks, which owns the electricity grid in Northern Ireland.

In 2016, Coolkeeragh ESB Ltd made a pre-tax profit of £24.2m. Last year the company revealed its profits fell by almost £20m (82%) to £4.4m, citing "significant increases in cost of sales for gas and carbon".

Now the company has declared a pre-tax loss of £13m for the 12 months to December 31, 2018.

Once again, ESB has cited a significant increase in gas purchasing costs and reduced plant running for its 2018 performance.

It said that the average gas price incurred by the plant during 2018 was up over 35% compared to the previous year.

The company's operation centres on a 400MW combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) supplied by gas from Scotland and a 53MW open cycle gas turbine (OCGT) fuelled by kerosene supplied by road tankers.

Last year did see a spike in the wholesale price of gas. According to operator Naturgy, wholesale gas prices during June 2019 were 49% below June 2018.

Coolkeeragh's latest accounts covers the transfer into the new integrated single electricity market (I-SEM) on September 30, 2018. The plant previously operated in the single electricity market (SEM). That market is now replaced by I-SEM, the new wholesale all-island electricity market.

While I-SEM is intended to integrate the electricity market in Northern Ireland and Republic with European markets, it was expected to create more competition and in doing so put downward pressure on wholesale prices.

In a statement, ESB said: "Plant operations were satisfactory in the year with the loss driven by lower plant running and a significant increase in the cost of sales mainly relating to higher gas costs.

"The Coolkeeragh combined cycle unit was successful in the recent capacity market auction for electricity generators for the annual period 2022/2023.

"While there is uncertainty for thermal generation stations due to changes brought about by the integrated single electricity market, the plant remains an important generating asset for ESB."

Belfast Telegraph