It's all over for coal as Kilroot goes green

Kilroot Power Station has switched off its coal units for the last time as it transitions to lower carbon gas generation
Kilroot Power Station has switched off its coal units for the last time as it transitions to lower carbon gas generation

THE coal burners have been switched off for the last time at Kilroot Power Station in Carrickfergus, which has kept the lights on in Northern Ireland since 1981.

The plant, now part-owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretínský, has begun its transition from fossil fuel to lower carbon gas generation, and the commercial operation of the new gas turbines will follow at the start of next year.

The Kilroot site, along with Ballylumford, was acquired from AES in 2019 by energy company EP UK Investments, which is primarily focused on power generation from conventional and renewable sources.

After engagement with regulators, the owners served a three-year closure notice to close Kilroot's coal fired electricity generation units from September 30 2023, working in the interim with staff and unions to manage the closure process.

Kilroot Power Station was first commissioned in 1981, and for four decades it has provided a hugely strategic and important source of electricity for homes and businesses across the north.

It was originally fuelled by oil, the lowest cost fuel at the time.

But following a change in generating policies in Northern Ireland in 1985 in the wake of a major spike in oil prices, it was decided the plant would be converted to burn coal as well as oil.

This conversion took place between 1986 and 1989, and Kilroot has burned almost exclusively only coal ever since.

When EPUKI bought Kilroot in 2020, it outlined a vision to create a £1 billion energy park on the site, which will have the potential to generate more than 700MW of lower carbon and renewable energy and power up to 500,000 homes.

Around 150 staff will permanently work on the site (, with around 200 employed during the construction phase.

EPUKI chief executive Tom Bains said: “First and foremost, I pay tribute to the many colleagues and contractors who have worked diligently over the years to ensure the safe and effective operation of the Kilroot Power Station, and on behalf of EP Kilroot Ltd, I place on record my sincere thanks to everyone for the vital role they have played.

“Our focus now remains on progressing the transition from coal to new lower carbon gas generation on the site.

“We are continuing to work at pace on the construction of the Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) units, and EPUKI remains committed to investing over £1billion in the Kilroot Energy Park site, building on the £250 million which has been invested to date.

“Our plans for Kilroot represent the largest private sector investment in electricity generation on a single site, in Northern Ireland.

“We will ensure Kilroot remains an important source of local employment in East Antrim, keeping electricity generation as a key cornerstone of the local economy.’’