The ESB is backing an electric sports car, along with the founders of Google and the president of eBay.
As the petrolheads of BBC show Top Gear revved up the first stage of their world tour at the RDS in Dublin this week, the Sunday Independent can exclusively reveal that the semi-state electricity board is one of a number of firms bankrolling the Tesla Motors car -- a car which dozens of top celebrities are queuing up to buy.
It is understood that the waiting list for it includes top-earning movie stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio; hi-tech heroes and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Dell founder Michael Dell.
Even California governor and Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger -- formerly a fan of the gas-guzzling Humvee -- is on the list.
Tesla Motors says that its all-electric Tesla Roadster -- which does 0 to 60mph in 3.9 seconds, and 244 miles on one charge -- will cost around €99,000 in Europe.
The ESB has backed the car through an investment of €15.5m in a €310m clean technology venture capital fund run by US firm Vantage Point Venture Partners, who manage about $4bn of assets.
Better Place, which is developing the electricity infrastructure to enable the use of large numbers of electric cars in Denmark and Israel, is also being backed by the Silicon Valley-based financiers.
This investment by the ESB was the first made with funds that will come from a €200m innovation fund that it has established.
Using profits made by its international arm, ESB International, the company has allocated €40m per year to finance these kinds of projects over the next five years, according to a company source.
Energy minister Eamon Ryan said earlier this week that he wants 250,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2020, and investments such as these will give the ESB an early insight into the workings of the technology involved, the source said.