Fears are growing about energy security next winter as two electricity generators remain out of action
A review meant to gauge security of energy supplies in the Republic will not be completed until next year, according to Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications.
Fears are growing about energy security next winter as two electricity generators remain out of action while demand surges as data centres and other facilities seek extra power.
Responding to a Dáil question from Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Mr Ryan said that a security of supply review of the electricity and natural gas systems, begun in late 2019, would be completed in the first half of next year.
Electricity market regulators issued a series of warnings last winter indicating that demand in the Dublin area was close to capacity, increasing the risk of temporary blackouts should individual power plants fail.
High demand, partly driven by cold weather, combined with the shutdown of gas-fired electricity generators in Cork and Dublin and low wind speeds, which limit renewable power, to push the network close to capacity.
The Department of the Environment said on Monday that contingency plans were being put in place in case the Bord Gáis Energy power plant at Whitegate in Cork and the Energia facility in Huntstown, Dublin, were not operating by next winter.
A spokeswoman said every effort was being made to ensure that the “two key power stations” can restart generating electricity as quickly as possible.
It emerged last month that national grid operator Eirgrid had written to the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) warning that the growing number of data centres locating close to Dublin was increasing demand on the system.
The problem prompted Eirgrid’s head of regulation, Bill Thompson, to warn that the Republic faced a more acute security of energy supply problem than it had in the past.
The department said it was monitoring progress on action being taken by the CRU and Eirgrid to ensure that electricity supplies were secure in the short term. These include increasing the availability of existing electricity generators, developing new ones and changes to grid connections given to data centres.
The department’s spokeswoman noted that this work was separate to the security of supply review, which is focused on the period to 2030, in the context of the Republic meeting commitments to combat climate change by 2050.
She explained that the electricity and natural gas networks were interdependent.
The Republic relies heavily on natural gas as it is burned to generate 60 per cent of the electricity used here.
“The review will include identification and appraisal of a number of measures including alternative energy sources such as renewable gas, greater levels of interconnection and energy storage,” the spokeswoman said.
Mr Ryan recently issued a policy statement saying it would not be appropriate for plans for any LNG plant in the Republic to move ahead until the review is complete.
Shannon LNG, a subsidiary of US group New Fortress Energy, last month sought permission from An Bord Pleanála to build the plant and a 600 mega-watt power plant. The High Court last year quashed an earlier application by the same company to build an LNG plant following a challenge by Friends of the Irish Environment.
Source: The Irish Times, By Barry O’Halloran, July 20, 2021