Planning permission has been approved for a new gas pipeline to supply Kilroot Power Station outside Carrickfergus ahead of its anticipated switch from coal to gas.
Speaking at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim’s Planning Committee on Thursday, Kilroot management indicated that the coal operation is expected to cease in September 2023.
EPUKI Commercial Director Ian Luney said that the proposed switch to gas represents a £15m investment in the local area adding that the planning decision would be a “significant milestone in the project timeline”.
He stated that it would provide “critical and vital” power generation for Northern Ireland with both Kilroot Power Station and Ballylumford Power Station “ideally situated to address need”.
“Kilroot will therefore continue to be critical in providing security of supply”, he commented.
Mr Luney went on to say that power generation is a “key cornerstone of the borough’s economy” and provides “significant local employment and contributes a substantial amount of rates”.
He stated that EP Kilroot is “completely committed to taking forward this significant investment”.
The owners of Kilroot Power Station, EPUK Investments (EPUKI), have already outlined their vision for an investment of up to £600m in the creation of a new energy park, at the Kilroot site, outside Carrickfergus.
This would represent the largest ever single investment in electricity generation in Northern Ireland.
If taken forward in its entirety, the Kilroot Energy Park vision, would have the potential to generate up to 440MW of lower carbon and renewable energy, which is enough to power 500,000 homes.
Speaking at the meeting, Larne Lough councillor Alderman Paul Reid said: “There is no doubt this is a good news story.”
He said he was “delighted” that closure had been “turned around to keep jobs in this borough”.
The EP Kilroot representative acknowledged that 2018 had been a “difficult time for the business”.
The plant had been earmarked for closure in May 2018 by then owner AES after its coal-fired power units lost out in the first auction for the new all-island integrated electricity market.
Kilroot and Ballylumford Power Stations were sold to EPUKI in April 2019.
The proposed three-kilometre gas pipeline will run underground between Kilroot Power Station and the Belfast Transmission gas pipeline north of Carrickfergus.
One of the proposed routes is north alongside Tongue Loanen Road before crossing towards Dalways Bawn/Killyglass Road to the proposed above ground installation at Marshallstown. The other follows Beltoy Road and crossing Dalways Bawn Road toward the Marshallstown installation.
Three objections were received from local residents over landscaping and character of the area. One asked for the infrastructure to be “kept as far away as possible from their property”.
Head of Planning, Paul Duffy, said that his department is “content with either route” and stated that the impact on residential amenity for neighbouring properties is not likely to be significant”.
Mid and East Antrim Mayor Peter Johnston has said previously: “Power generation is a key cornerstone of our borough’s economy with facilities at Kilroot and Ballylumford making a significant contribution to Northern Ireland’s energy requirements.
“This energy park is committed to a low carbon and renewable energy promotion at Kilroot and will see the future remain in our borough for the foreseeable. This has been made possible by the recent securing of the T-4 auction for the provision of gas for the next 10 years.”