Plan to stave off electricity blackouts this winter



Surging electricity demand - in turn combined with tight supplies - have sparked fears that power cuts could hit the Republic’s homes and businesses later this year or early in 2022.

Electricity generators in Cork and Dublin that have been out of action for several months are now expected to be back on line in time for the winter.

This will considerably lessen any risk of blackouts.

Confidence is growing that two electricity plants will be restored to action in time to stave off the risk of power cuts next winter.

Industry sources expect the plants, at Whitegate in Cork Harbour and Huntstown in north Co Dublin, to restart generating electricity in October and November, in line with schedules already given by their owners.

Bord Gáis Energy has said that it expects Whitegate to restart on November 4th. The company confirmed on Monday that it has “notified the market of its current expectation of Whitegate being offline” until that date.

Energia, one of whose two plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin, has been shut down, has already said that it would be back on line in October.

The return of both plants will restore about 800 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the Republic’s power network, which sources say should be enough to see the system through next winter.

National electricity grid operator EirGrid has dropped a plan to deploy emergency generators in Dublin as a safeguard against power cuts, following a protest by the Environmental Protection Agency and a legal challenge.

The State company had hired ESB to provide two plants with a total capacity to provide 200MW of electricity. It is understood that the environment regulator’s objections and a legal challenge to the plan by EP UK Investments, owner of Tynagh, Ballylumford and Kilroot power plants, prompted the State company to decide against proceeding.

While sources say the risk to power supplies this winter has largely eased, they warn that there are longer-term fears about energy security as more data centres are built in the Republic.

EirGrid has agreed to connect data centres likely to need 1,800MW of electricity. Developers of facilities with a demand totalling a further 2,000MW have applied for connections. Peak demand in the Republic is 5,500MW.

Legislation obliges the State company to connect data centres. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities launched a consultation on the problem following a warning from EirGrid that each centre consumed the same amount of power as a sizeable town. Submissions closed in early July.

Sources say data centres pose more of a longer-term problem. According to figures published last year by Eirgrid, data centres now operating in the Republic consume about 1,100MW of electricity.

The likely closure of power plants, including the Republic’s biggest at Moneypoint in Co Clare, is set to compound the problem.

Source – The Irish Times