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ESB seeking backers for €1bn gas-fired power plant in UK

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The ESB already has planning permission for the huge station on a 50-acre site at Knottingley in Yorkshire. Stock image

The ESB already has planning permission for the huge station on a 50-acre site at Knottingley in Yorkshire. Stock image

The ESB already has planning permission for the huge station on a 50-acre site at Knottingley in Yorkshire. Stock image

The ESB is advancing plans for a €1bn power plant in the UK and seeking an equity partner to help build the huge 1,600 megawatt facility.

When the power plant in Yorkshire is built it will rank among Britain's biggest.

Investment bank Nomura has been hired by the ESB to find a partner for the new gas-fired power station development, code-named Project Knight Rider.

The ESB already has planning permission for the huge station on a 50-acre site at Knottingley in Yorkshire.

Speaking to the Irish Independent earlier this month, group finance director Pat Fenlon said it would be the end of the year at the earliest before a decision would be made about when the project will actually proceed.

That's because the UK government doesn't hold its next annual capacity auction until the end of this year. Those auctions are held to ensure that the UK has adequate power supplies during winter periods, when demand peaks.

The ESB has told potential investors that the UK will need new gas-fired power stations to take up the slack as about 20 gigawatts of coal-fired and nuclear-powered electricity generation is shut down by 2025.

It has also told likely backers that the UK's electricity reserve margin fell from about 18pc in 2011 to just 0.1pc during the winter that has just ended, before the use of emergency supplementary balancing reserves. Those reserves are used by the National Grid in what it says are the "unlikely event" that there is insufficient capacity to meet demand. It typically involves bringing old power stations that are already closed, mothballed or generally unavailable into action to meet shortfalls.

According to industry publication 'SparkSpread', which first reported that the ESB is now seeking an equity partner for Knottingley, the utility is also in talks with General Electric for the supply of two 800-megawatt turbines for the project. The ESB confirmed it is hunting for an equity partner.

"ESB has approached the market seeking expressions of interest from potential investors interested in acquiring a share in the Knottingley CCGT development project in West Yorkshire," it said.

Irish Independent