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ESB Connections

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The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government (DHPLG) used the ESB connections dataset as a proxy for house completions for many years as there is no significant alternative to electricity as a power source in Ireland and only one network provider of electricity exists. This data source has a time series dating back to 1970 which allows for analysis of housing activity over a significant period of time.

However, it has become clear, particularly arising from the recent economic crisis, that the data does not only refer to new dwellings but also includes new connections and reconnections to the electricity network. Thus it should not be interpreted as the number of new housing completions but rather as the number of ESB connections.

ESB connections up 29% in 2017

ESB connections in 2017 totalled 19,271 units, an increase of 29% on the 14,932 units in 2016, (as published by the DHPLG).

The ESB connections series shows a comparable trendover the period 2011 to 2017, to the New Dwelling Completions series compiled by the CSO in this release. However, there is a significant difference in volume between the two series, as shown in Figure 3.1. The starting point for the New Dwelling Completions series was the ESB connections series, with adjustments made to account for unfinished houses (UFHD), non-dwelling connections and reconnections. All of these adjustments are described below. The average difference each month between the two series is about 380 over the seven year period for which the New Dwelling Completions series has been compiled.

Due to extracting the series as an historical dataset there is a minor discrepancy between the total connections received by the CSO from the ESB and those published at the time by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

X-axis labelNew Dwelling CompletionsESB connections
Q1 201118752766
Q2 201117912561
Q3 201116872590
Q4 201116412563
Q1 201211311931
Q2 201211171998
Q3 201212052107
Q4 201214582452
Q1 20138891691
Q2 201311462009
Q3 201310331982
Q4 201315072619
Q1 201410942090
Q2 201413182742
Q3 201414042957
Q4 201417023227
Q1 201513712629
Q2 201515702996
Q3 201520333289
Q4 201522453752
Q1 201619683144
Q2 201623953498
Q3 201625113865
Q4 201630414425
Q1 201727793896
Q2 201732984640
Q3 201737854997
Q4 201745845738

The main differences between the New Dwelling Completions series and the ESB connections dataset is that adjustments have been made to allow for non-dwellings, reconnections and connections to the ESB network of unfinished dwellings which, although new available dwellings, do not reflect the actual production of the construction industry in the year they are connected to the ESB. Figure 3.2 summarises the remainder of ESB connections once new dwelling completions have been extracted. 

X-axis labelUFHDReconnectionNon-Dwelling
Q1 2011383241205
Q2 2011331224209
Q3 2011326299195
Q4 2011338326218
Q1 2012278302179
Q2 2012357294196
Q3 2012431271163
Q4 2012385393185
Q1 2013354280156
Q2 2013323347161
Q3 2013393392144
Q4 2013436454192
Q1 2014422398165
Q2 2014627560215
Q3 2014716649163
Q4 2014603683210
Q1 2015342742179
Q2 2015453746210
Q3 2015384670194
Q4 2015492730262
Q1 2016409575198
Q2 2016286598207
Q3 2016508665190
Q4 2016398737237
Q1 2017314587222
Q2 2017314721232
Q3 2017256727223
Q4 2017207650285
Q1 2018174527230
Table 3.1: ESB connections by type and quarter, Q1 2011 - Q1 2018

UFHD dwellings

Arising from the economic crisis a large number of developments were not fully completed and occupied at the time of construction. As a result many new estates were only partially occupied with many dwellings remaining in various states of completion for some time. As the recovery strengthened, and arising from the finishing out of these estates, many previously vacant units were occupied and many unfinished dwellings were brought to the point of completion and occupation. Figure 3.3 shows analysis from DHPLG's Unfinished Housing report 2017.1 Developments surveyed by inspectors on behalf of the Department are shown.


This trend suggests that the majority of completed dwellings in unfinished housing developments have been included in the ESB connections series to date and will decrease further over the coming years.

Whilst the annual reports do not allow a tracking by unit of the developments considered in scope for the survey carried out by Inspectors on behalf of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, they did use a unique identifier at the level of the development. Also by virtue of the nature of the task, many developments were removed from the scope of the survey over time in line with the level of activity on site. As such whilst it may be possible, at least in respect of those developments which remain in scope from year to year, to assess the level of progress at the development level it is difficult to draw any very specific quantitative conclusions at an overall level and it is not possible to extract from the survey specific details about the progress of individual dwellings.   

Non-dwelling connections

The data on ESB connections is collected from the application form NC2 “Single Domestic Dwelling or Farm Premises”2 for single dwellings and form NC1 for "Multi Unit Developments"3. Both can be used to request a supply of up to 29kVa. Thus a non-dwelling supply (for a farm for example) can be connected to the network using this application form.

However, an analysis of address fields and other fields supplied on this application form allows for the exclusion of agricultural buildings, (e.g., farm, pump house, shed, etc.) and other non-residential units.

As shown in Figure 3.4, two-thirds of all non-dwelling connections are related to the agriculture sector. Other connections classified as non-dwelling include family apartments, retirement home and holiday villages, halting sites, mobile homes and caravans.

not specified
Holiday Village


A property which is reconnected to the ESB network, having been disconnected for more than two years, is assigned a new MPRN and is therefore included in the ESB connections dataset. The number of reconnections has increased as the ecconomy has improved and one of the reasons for properties becoming vacant (and potentially thereafter requiring reconnection) relates to the issue of mortgage distress and repossessions which may arise as a result. There have been 8,500 repossessions of residential dwellings and 4,900 repossesions of buy-to-let (BTL) dwellings in Ireland since 2009. Data from the Central Bank4 as shown in Figure 3.5 suggests that there can be a time lag between the repossession and disposal of dwellings with over 3,000 dwellings in the lenders' repossession as of end 2017. In the majority of cases, this time lag would be sufficient to lead to a disconnection from the ESB network.

The increase in reconnections in recent years however indicates that a number of vacant properties of this kind are being brought back into use.

Residential Properties In Possession (Stock)Total RepossesionsDisposals
Q1 201169214033
Q2 201180917356
Q3 201188416287
Q4 2011895133118
Q1 2012961170105
Q2 2012958145143
Q3 20121358228192
Q4 20121357222220
Q1 20131389243198
Q2 20131503298185
Q3 20131566271205
Q4 20131516237226
Q1 20141679354191
Q2 20141885396189
Q3 20142027385234
Q4 20142223636436
Q1 20152349557418
Q2 20152522656503
Q3 20152682624462
Q4 20152428539752
Q1 20162469723675
Q2 20162318702832
Q3 20162329709698
Q4 20162289714749
Q1 20172365609523
Q2 20172374547535
Q3 20172448716618
Q4 201734051541584

1Dept. of Housing Planning and Local Government - Unfinished Housing Developments Annual Progress Report 2017 (PDF)Housing Agency - Survey of Unfinished Housing - Survey Methodology (PDF)

2ESB - Connection to a single domestic dwelling or farm presmises application (PDF) 

3ESB - Multi unit development application (PDF)

4Central Bank - Mortgage Arrears Statistics

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