The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending EUR 200 million to Electricity Supply Board (ESB) for the reinforcement and extension of electricity transmission and distribution networks for Ireland.

The finance will support a large number of schemes spread throughout Ireland to strengthen the electricity networks and improve the quality and reliability of supply for Irish consumers, as well as meeting growing demand. The works form part of a major EUR 2.7 billion investment programme being implemented by ESB to provide a robust electricity network to support economic growth in Ireland.

ESB is responsible for the generation, transmission, distribution and supply to 1.6 million customers.

EIB Vice-President, Michael G. Tutty said: "This investment forms a crucial element in a programme to develop and expand Ireland's electricity transmission and distribution system. Our financing will help lower the cost of this work and contribute to upgrading essential infrastructure underpinning the Irish economy. It will also facilitate the connection of new power stations into the grid, helping the development of a newly competitive electricity generation and supply market - an EU policy objective supported by the EIB."

The project comprises of more than 30 transmission schemes and several thousand distribution schemes for reinforcing and extending the transmission and distribution networks - from 275 KV down to low tension.

In the last ten years (1992-2001) the EIB has lent some EUR 300 million for investment in Ireland to extend and upgrade electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.

ESB's Chief Executive Designate, Padraig Mc Manus said: "Investing in Ireland's transmission and distribution infrastructure is a key priority for ESB over the next 5 years. We intend to support Ireland's continued economic growth and competitiveness by strengthening backbone electricity networks and enhancing the quality of supply for all Irish electricity customers."

The EIB is owned by the Member States of the European Union. It was set up in 1958 to finance capital investment furthering EU policy objectives, and, though a not for profit organisation, it is self-financing, raising its funds by borrowing on capital markets. The EIB's key policy objectives are financing: regional development; the trans-European networks in transport, telecom and energy; knowledge and R&D intensive industries; improved international competitiveness of industry, small and medium sized enterprises, environmental protection, secure energy supplies and health and education. It also provides finance outside the EU within certain limits as part of the EU's external relations policy.