Every morning before 9 am, Dave Kirwan receives a report on the price of gas from his integrated trading team in Cork. “They send a note that talks about the level of gas storage in Europe, the weather, movements in LNG (liquified natural gas) shipments… it talks about any movements or any disruptions in the Russian situation I need to know about,” the managing director of Bord Gáis said. Two years ago Kirwan said gas was trading at 50 pence a therm in the UK wholesale market. “This morning gas is trading at £3.50,” he said. 

“In November / December wholesale gas made up 40 per cent of customers’ bills, today it makes up 90 per cent,” he said. The level and volatility of commodity prices he said had “no precedent.” 

“We have seen volatility where gas prices have trebled in a single day,” he said. “Markets are markets, There is logic and rational thinking and then there is emotion.” 

“We have to be all over-trading. We’ve had to try and shield our customers from the worst excesses of gas price (rises) which got over £9 at points,” he said.

“We’ve unfortunately had to pass on price increases and we get criticised for them.”

Kirwan feels this criticism is unwarranted, as Bord Gáis is, he says, trying its best to protect consumers in the face of unprecedented hikes in world energy prices. “We’ve been trading and optimising our assets and our trading positions so customers haven’t been exposed to the worst excesses of the sharp increases,” Kirwan said.

“When markets were most volatile, we were trying to buy around those periods. If you translated the worst excess of the price rises we have seen in the wholesale market to our customers’ bills, they would be much higher.

“I think our end-of-the-year accounts will show we haven’t grown our profits. Our margins haven’t increased through this. What we’ve done is we’ve tried to use everything in our locker to shield customers from the worst excesses of the market which sounds extraordinary because the prices have gone up so much.”

Bord Gáis Energy’s operating profits rose by 74 per cent in the first half of 2022, but Kirwan said this wasn’t because it was overcharging consumers. It was simply because of the return to service of the Whitegate power station in Cork, a 445 MW plant that can power up to 400,000 homes that it was forced to close temporarily to service: “Our revenues are over €2 billion (in Ireland) this year,” he explained.

“But we are not growing profits through this. We’re actually making less money from our core business than we’ve ever done.” 

The Business Post reported last Sunday that the government was considering capping prices on energy bills in a policy u-turn, and Minister Eamon Ryan has confirmed this is being looked at in time. I ask Kirwan for his view, as the leader of Bord Gáis, a major player in the Irish market owned by listed British energy group Centrica. There isn’t enough detail to give a definitive answer, but Kirwan gives a thoughtful response.

“While price caps have been introduced in other markets, it’s worth noting that they don’t encourage demand reduction or target monies at those who need it most,” he said. “Therefore, when considering a price cap the benefit for customers and particularly our most vulnerable should be key factors. Our focus is always on what is right for the customer so we’re very interested in ESRI research into the value of introducing such measures, in particular its cost-benefit analysis.”

Dave Kirwan. Photo: Shane Lynam


The office of Bord Gáis at One Warrington Place was bustling when I arrived to meet Dave Kirwan. I interviewed his predecessor Catherine O’Kelly on a video call during the lockdown in July 2020, and it is good to be meeting in person. I can see the basement of the building is laid out for a Christmas lunch and staff are wearing Christmas-themed jumpers.

It is a crisp bright day and cranes can be seen overhanging the docklands on one side with the Aviva stadium and the Dublin mountains framing the other.

Kirwan brings me into a small meeting room off an open-plan office for our interview. He is personable, intelligent, and comfortable with handling any question, within the restrictions of working for a stock market-listed business. This is Kirwan’s second time in charge of Bord Gáis Energy after he moved to London in January 2018 to take up senior roles with parent company Centrica.

Kirwan’s first job when he moved to Britain was to become managing director of UK customer operations, giving him responsibility for 16 call centres and between 5,000 and 6,000 agents for British Gas. “It was at a point of change, trying to digitise the business.” It was the year before Britain introduced its default tariff price cap in response to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into the energy market which concluded in 2016 that customers on default tariffs were being overcharged. 

“With new modular reactors, you can bring a nuclear plant on-stream the same size as our Whitegate power station.”

“It was in advance of a price cap being introduced in the UK, which meant there was huge pressure on costs and stabilising the business,” Kirwan recalled. After working in that division for a year, Kirwan was promoted again to managing director of UK Home. “I was asked to take on the British Gas P&L which was the services and energy P&L,” he said.

British Gas had at the time about eight million customers, and its services division had five million customers so it was a big responsibility. “I was in the role for an 18-month period and then in the middle of that Covid-19 hit,” Kirwan recalled.

“And so did the price cap. We went from being in a market where you set prices in competition to having a regulatory price imposed and that had a huge impact on the industry and the business.”

How did his business respond? “That change was very much around efficiencies, costs, trying to adjust to that kind of regulatory regime,” Kirwan said. “And then Covid hit, so it was about getting engineers off the road, and figuring out what to do.”

Centrica was responsible for servicing huge numbers of boilers in people’s homes, but now it couldn’t visit. It sold an insurance product too, that required boilers’ to be serviced annually, which reported to Kirwan. “It didn’t seem safe to send thousands of engineers into homes six or seven times a day in a global pandemic,” Kirwan said. “The right thing to do was not visit customers but there was a lot of working out to do with stakeholders. Ultimately, we mobilised all of our call centres from physical to remote in a week, and we rescheduled our engineers so they operated only on an emergency basis. It was a crazy time, but we rose to it.”

In April 2020, Chris O’Shea was promoted from chief financial officer to chief executive of Centrica. Kirwan was excited by the prospect of working with O’Shea, but then unexpectedly his boss rang him and asked him if he’d like to move back to Ireland. 

“I said, I would. I have four kids, so I used to go over on a Monday morning (to London) and then back,” Kirwan said. Kirwan has two daughters and two sons, aged between 19 and 13. O’Shea wanted Kirwan part of his Centrica executive team so even though he was moving back to his old role in Dublin, he now was even more embedded in the business. 

Kirwan also represents Centrica’s interest in its nuclear interest in Britain which it bought in Lake Acquisitions from French energy company EDF in 2009. “We have a 20 per cent share of a joint venture with EDF for 6000 megawatts of nuclear energy and I’m on the board (of this business),” Kirwan said. From January 1, 2023 Kirwan will be responsible for group health and safety too, an important role in Centrica’s operations. 

“Chris has flattened the structure (since he took over),” Kirwan said. “For the first time since Centrica bought Ireland, a person within Ireland is at the top table,” he said. “It happened at a good time when we were reshaping strategy.” I ask Kirwan given his interest in nuclear power if he could ever see it in Ireland. “There is mental scarring in Ireland which I get,” Kirwan said. “The reality is, the nuclear plants in the UK’s safety and quality standards are off the charts high.” 

“Nuclear has the benefit of being zero carbon. Let’s face it, we absolutely need conventional generation alongside renewals. We know that – and then the question is what choice of technology.” Britain and Germany, he said, are “going to go nuclear”. The interconnector between Ireland and France means Ireland is going to be somewhat powered by nuclear power, he added.

“We need all manner of diverse solutions to decarbonise our society. So, Ireland has the opportunity to watch how other markets evolve using nuclear energy.”

“With new modular reactors, you can bring a nuclear plant on-stream, the same size as our Whitegate power station,” he said. “So, that’s a breakthrough. Rolls Royce are currently saying they could deliver these kinds of reactors to the market in four years’ time.” 

“But, at the moment, I don’t see anything on the horizon at a government policy to change their mind on that, but when you think about the change that we’re trying to bring about, the complex system we’re trying to create, I would urge pragmatism, and say, don’t dismiss options,” Kirwan said. 


A few weeks ago, Bord Gáis held a gathering for 340 of its team in the RDS called Momentum. Kirwan believes such meetings have become more important after the dislocation of the pandemic. “You learn by osmosis,” he said. “The purpose of (the gathering) was to talk about our purpose, our vision, and demonstrate the things we will need to do well to live our purpose.” 

“This time is about real transformation,” he said. “It only happens once every three or four decades in a company’s history.” Bord Gáis was founded in the 1980s to create a natural gas industry, and that mission continued until about 2000, he explained. 

After that, the market was deregulated, and Bord Gáis became about providing competitive choices to customers and raising service standards. It now faces a new mission. 

We’re going to have to develop new forms of storage of energy so we can release it when customers need it.

“The purpose now is to help our customers live sustainably, simply and affordably,” he said. 

“We have to actively help our customers decarbonise both their businesses and their homes. We are trying to change our operating model to service what the customer and the nation needs us to do.” 

“We’re trying to keep two things front of mind at the moment,” Kirwan added. “One, we’re in a crisis and customers are struggling. It has to be about helping today but not taking the foot off the pedal of changing tomorrow.” 

Bord Gáis, he said, had invested €10 million in its call centres over the past 12 months to help its customers. “We’ve doubled the amount of agents we have to over 400 people in Cork, Kerry and across Ireland,” he said. 

“People who have never called Bord Gáis Energy are calling us now. They want to know what’s going on. What are my options? How can I afford this?” 

“It is our responsibility to ensure they get a human being to explain it to them.” Kirwin said. 

Bord Gáis, he added, had made a commitment of 10 per cent of its profits to an energy fund administered by the St Vincent DePaul, the Money Advice Bureau, and Focus Ireland. 

“It is the right thing to do,” Kirwan said. This equates to roughly €3 million, and Kirwan said Bord Gáis would not stop there. “We don’t see any softening in prices for the next 18 months. We will do more.” Bord Gáis was also working on payment plans. “Our balance sheet is providing a lot of working capital to customers giving them more time to pay off what are extraordinarily high bills.” 

“We need to do everything we can to help our customers to ride this storm…it is as simple as that.”


In October 2022 the board of Centrica met in Dublin for the first time in four years because of the pandemic. “Over the course of a day and a half we presented our vision for the next number of years,” Kirwin recalled. 

“It does call upon the balance sheet to say, we need to invest to be part of the answer to transition Ireland’s electricity system, so after that day and a half I got the go-ahead to invest almost €300 million developing two fast-acting gas facilities,” Kirwan said a team of people on the floor below where we were meeting was working on developing these plants. 

“They’re in response to the call for pretty urgent flexible gas fire generation to support the Irish energy system and also to support the level of intermittency that we’re going to see with 80 per cent wind,” Kirwin said. 

“So these plants are designed specifically to come on really quick at high efficiency and they can be shut down just as quickly depending on wind peaks and troughs. It’s the largest organic investment endorsed by Centrica since they bought the Bord Gáis energy business.” Kirwan is confident Centrica will invest more in Ireland as part of ambitious plans for the overall business. “Our ambitions are to triple the amount of renewables that we bring into our portfolios,” he said. “We will sell green products to our customers, and we’re definitely going to engage with more onshore and solar and offshore wind developers to get access to that kind of renewable power.” 

Britain, he said, was working on hydrogen energy hubs, and the same could happen in Ireland. “We are currently in conversations with a number of parties to say, ‘Could we join up with offshore wind, storage and an offtake for our power station and decarbonise’,” he said. “That will take hundreds of millions and we’ll be presenting to our board our early thinking about that over the course of February and March.”

Ireland has a potentially large oil and gas find off the coast of Cork, which Larry Goodman-backed Barryroe Offshore Energy hopes to develop. Is this a good idea? “I can see both sides of this,” Kirwan said. “It is an easier call to develop a gas-fired power station as long as you can decarbonise it to use hydrogen in the future. The problem the government has is they do not want to exacerbate carbon dependency so (developing new gas fields) it’s a tricky one.”

Kirwin said he understood the challenges facing Eamon Ryan as Environment Minister. “He’s looking at the energy crisis and going, ‘Do not get distracted from the transformation needed,'” Kirwan said. “We’re in an energy crisis, and we’ve got to do everything we can for customers. But we also have to accelerate away from dependency on fossils.'”

“I think (Ryan) sees this as a generational change that needs to happen quickly so, I wouldn’t criticise him for that,” Kirwan said. “People like me are practitioners. We need to turn this into action.” 

Kirwan quotes the late American architect and systems theorist Richard Buckminister Fuller who said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” He then relates the quotation to the challenges facing his industry. 

“Our job as energy companies is to find solutions for customers to decarbonise,” Kirwan said. 

“These plants are designed specifically to come on really quick at high efficiency”

In 2021, Bord Gáis set up a new Services and Solutions division to do this, and Kirwan said it would hire 350 engineers to work in this division over the next four years. To find skilled staff to do these jobs Bord Gáis has set up an apprenticeship programme. “We want to train people who are energy experts to go into homes and put in heat pumps, provide insulation services, install solar panels and give customers advice about efficiency,” he said. 

This is a big ramp-up for Bord Gáis which employed 40 service engineers in December 2021. “We want to go to six or seven times that number so are creating an apprenticeship programme as there is a skills shortage.” Kirwan said Bord Gáis had set itself a target to ensure 30 per cent of its service engineer experts are women by 2030. “We need to make this an attractive career path for young people to decarbonise Ireland’s society and have a great job,” Kirwan said. 

Bord Gáis employs 700 people directly and indirectly, but Kirwan said this number was going to increase a lot. “We anticipate over the next 18 months that will almost double,” Kirwan said. “Those jobs will predominantly be to support the decarbonising net zero agenda.”

In October, Centrica announced the reopening of the Rough gas storage facility in the North Sea which can store up to 30 billion cubic feet of gas. The move was a big boost for British energy resilience, and ultimately Centrica plans to make it the world’s biggest methane and hydrogen storage facility. Could Ireland do the same in Kinsale, and could Centrica play a role in storage? 

“We think something similar should be done in Kinsale,” Kirwan said. “There are partners looking at this at the moment and we’d be very supportive of that. Kinsale is not just for gas storage but in the future for hydrogen.” 

Kirwan said wind, solar and other renewables required storage solutions. “We’re going to have to develop new forms of storage of energy so we can release it when customers need it.”


Dave Kirwan is from Tullow, a town of fewer than 5,000 people in Carlow. He is an energy lifer, after graduating with an electronic engineering degree from UCD in 1988. While he loved engineering he was always more interested in its applications and working with people. Kirwan spent two years in the United States with the ESB, where he worked on developing a gas plant in Louisiana. He then spent a stint in Vietnam working with the World Bank installing a power plant in Vũng Tàu, a port city on a peninsula in southern Vietnam. “It wasn’t a place you’d necessarily go on your holidays, but I loved it,” Kirwan said. “I had my guitar so I used to get invited to Vietnamese weddings to sing Oasis songs.”

Kirwan wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend Catriona, who is now his wife, so he took a job with Bord Gáis in Cork where he worked on combined heat and power plants. He led negotiations for the development of the Mayo-Galway pipeline with investors in Corrib Partners and he helped the then state-owned firm on its work in Northern Ireland.

Kirwan has a doctorate in business, and I ask him what topic he did it on expecting something energy-related or a management topic du jour. Instead, he tells me it was on Scottish economist Adam Smith’s 1759 book The Theory of Moral Sentiments as a model for communication in modern organisations. “It was about dialogue… and how to bring about change,” Kirwan said. “I still read all that stuff. I use it today.” Almost 25 years into his career with Bord Gáis, he lives and breathes the business. “I was with the business when we got into the Whitegate Power Station, into wind and I was here through the sale process so it’s definitely in the blood,” he added.