In his role as Commercial Director at EPUK Investments (EPUKI), Ian Luney, is at the forefront of the energy transition to a lower carbon future, where the focus is on developing electricity generation infrastructure that helps maximise the use of renewable energy on the grid. In this article, he sets out EPUKI’s plans for the innovative Kilroot Energy Park in East Antrim and how the company is investing across the UK and Ireland to develop new electricity generation assets, which will play an integral part in the wider push to reduce carbon output and achieve new climate change targets.
At EPUKI, our main role is to generate the electricity which powers homes and businesses. We do this through efficiently operating the assets that we own across the UK and Ireland, which are primarily focused on generation from conventional and renewable sources. EPUKI represents the UK and Ireland interests of the EPH Group, which is one of the largest power producers in Europe, employing over 25,000 people.
EPUKI has an extremely strong track record in the development, construction and operation of power generation projects in Great Britain. This includes the repowering of Lynemouth Power Station, which was converted from coal to biomass following a £300 million investment and is now the second largest biomass facility in the UK.
In June 2019, EPUKI took the decision to acquire the Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations in Northern Ireland. The Kilroot Power Station site is the primary focus for our investment and development teams at present, with ambitious plans which are set out in more detail below.
Ballylumford Power Station remains of long-term strategic importance to EPUKI and Northern Ireland, with its combination of fast, flexible and diverse thermal assets. It also has the potential for battery storage and hydrogen production, making it ideally suited to address emerging and future needs for Northern Ireland as we move forward with long-term clean economic recovery.
The acquisition by EPUKI of a majority shareholding in Tynagh Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plant near Galway in Ireland, was also completed in October 2019, giving us a significant presence in the Republic of Ireland and the overall Single Electricity Market (SEM).
Decarbonisation and renewables targets
The Kilroot, Ballylumford and Tynagh power stations are crucial in helping to deliver security of supply across the island and we recognise that each site has a strategic role to play as we aim to make the transition from reliance on fossil fuels to ever increasing reliance on renewable energy sources.
Historically, the energy trilemma describes the balance between security of supply, affordability and environmental sustainability. The new eagerly awaited Northern Ireland Energy Strategy, to be published by the Department for the Economy by the end of 2021, will consider the energy trilemma in the context of Northern Ireland’s existing energy mix and how it is to be restructured in the coming years. This will be a crucial policy document in shaping the future of our electricity generation system.
As business and industry seeks to emerge from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, we believe it is important to refocus all our efforts on a ‘green recovery’. Targets are in place at a UK level to reach net zero carbon by 2050 and there is also an aspiration to produce 70 per cent of our electricity by renewable sources on the island of Ireland by 2030.
Aligned with those objectives and aims, EPUKI launched the vision for the creation of a new energy park at the Kilroot site in July 2020.
Kilroot Energy Park
The proposed Kilroot Energy Park represents the largest ever single investment in electricity generation in Northern Ireland and includes a range of renewable energy technologies and electricity generation solutions.
If taken forward in its entirety, the EPUKI 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 safeguard hundreds of jobs and mark an historic milestone in the decarbonisation of electricity generation in Northern Ireland.
The transition from coal to gas
The central element of our 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 hugely strategic and important source of electricity for homes and businesses. The transition from coal to gas will ensure that the site continues to provide that essential security of electricity supply for Northern Ireland.
Importantly, because of the flexible nature of the of the OCGT technology, it will also help to enable greater utilisation of renewable energy generation on the grid and reduce curtailment. This new flexible 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 delivery of infrastructure to allow for the continuation of indigenous, dispatchable and flexible generation at the Kilroot site is therefore a major focus for EPUKI over the coming years.
Other sustainable and renewable generation at Kilroot
A key proposed use within the Kilroot Energy Park is a multi-fuel Combined Heat and Power (CHP) facility. This process would use fuel, such as biomass and pre-treated non-recyclable waste, to produce renewable electricity. The planning application for this electricity generation plant will be processed by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and we look forward to working with them to deliver it.
The Department for the Economy has also identified hydrogen as a key component of a green recovery. As one of the most plentiful elements in the world, hydrogen is ‘clean burning’ and releases no carbon emissions. The production of hydrogen can require high pressure steam which the CHP process provides. The hydrogen can then be stored and used for zero-carbon power, heat or transport. The potential therefore exists for the Kilroot Energy Park to play a key role in helping Northern Ireland to become a global leader in hydrogen energy production.
Heat from the CHP process can also be used to support a variety of local industrial/commercial uses on adjacent employment lands thereby furthering sustainable development and encouraging economic investment into the Mid and East Antrim Borough.
We are also looking at the possibility for heat offtake from the CHP Facility to provide a cooling function for a large scale, state-of-the-art, purpose-built data centre on the site. This facility would support innovation and the digital economy throughout the Mid and East Antrim Borough by allowing data to be stored and processed locally.
In addition to these proposals, EPUKI is also developing plans for a variety of other forms of renewable energy on the 230-acre Kilroot site, including large scale solar, battery storage and EV charging facilities.
All of these initiatives combined, will contribute towards helping protect the environment and supporting the local economy in Northern Ireland.
A sustainable energy future
EPUKI has an exciting pipeline of projects planned for the coming years. We are looking forward to realising our vision for the Kilroot Energy Park and to helping power a sustainable future across all our sites in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
For more information:
T: +44 (0) 28 9335 6206
W: www.kilrootenergypark.com, www.epuki.co.uk