ESB Group has reported a loss after interest and tax of €66m for the six months to the end of June after what it called a period of unprecedented global turmoil brought about by the continuing challenge of Covid-19.

ESB said its operating profit before exceptional items came to €249m, down 15% on the same time last year mainly due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions and the associated reduction in electricity demand.  

Electricity demand in Ireland fell by about 15% at the height of the lockdown restrictions brought about by the response to Covid-19, but the group said it has seen demand recover. Since July is in line with 2019 comparative levels, ESB added.

The company also said it took an exceptional, non-cash impairment charge of €177m on its Carrington gas-fired power plant located in Manchester. 

It said the operating environment for thermal generation plants has changed significantly in recent years due to competition, regulation and decarbonisation which gave rise to ESB, in line with other utilities across Europe, impairing some of its generation assets. 

This charge represents about 1% of ESB's total asset base at the end of June.

ESB also said it had invested €395m in energy infrastructure investments so far this year.

Pat Fenlon, ESB's chief financial officer, said that in the context of an extremely challenging operating environment brought about by the global Covid-19 pandemic, ESB delivered a satisfactory set of financial results. 

"As an essential service provider, we remain focused on successfully ensuring the supply of electricity throughout this pandemic, while safeguarding our employees, contractors, customers and the communities in which we serve," Mr Fenlon said. 

"ESB remains well positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead and to deliver on our strategic ambition to lead the transition to reliable, affordable low-carbon energy for the benefit of our customers," he added.