Interruptions in electricity supply during the winter peak are threatened but not inevitable according to reports from two state bodies. If wind farm output improves after the recent lull, if two currently disused gas-fired power plants are restored and Britain has a reserve of energy to export on the interconnectors, all will be well. The policy of the government is to hope, with fervor, a tripling of these happy outcomes.
power interruptions for large individual users, not to mention blackout alerts, are not meant to occur in a well-planned and well-managed power system and have been so rare that the reliability of power supplies has been a problem. business card for IDA throughout the years. Emergency generators transported in the short term are not quite the desired image.
EirGrid, the crown corporation that manages the Republic’s national high-voltage grid, and its Northern Ireland counterpart SONI publish an annual power system adequacy report called the Generation Capacity Statement (GCS ). The two networks are interconnected and operated jointly. This year’s version is 96 pages long, and the list of problems and threats to the power supply will be familiar to readers of previous editions.
The GCS for 2018 listed them all, including growing demand for new data centers, growing reliance on intermittent wind power, scheduled shutdowns of old high-emission fossil fuel stations, and continued reliance and inevitable to the production of gas booster.
On the same day, the Public Services Regulatory Commission (CRU), the oversight body for electricity, gas and water, released a much shorter report that ticked off the list of identified threats to the system. years ago by EirGrid. He did not explain why the earlier warnings had not prompted political action.
The CRU describes its mission as follows: “The work of the CRU impacts every Irish home and business, ensuring a safe, secure and sustainable energy and water supply at a reasonable cost. “Regarding the cost of electricity, the CRU must be disappointed with its performance. Electricity costs in Ireland are among the highest in Europe. On the security of electricity supply, there is a recognized crisis.
One of the concerns is the failure of last year’s auction for future production capacity, designed by CRU. All bidders, including ESB, withdrew and no commitments to build new gas units were obtained. The CRU report does not contain any explanation of what happened.
EirGrid proceeded on the basis that its obligation is discharged once it has made the monies. It has no legal responsibility for energy security and no operational or financial capacity to respond to its own alerts. But EirGrid is the main repository of expertise on electrical engineering in Ireland and it has been too reluctant to draw the policy implications of GCS. It took an unfolding reality, and a bit of bad luck with the two gas units going off at the same time, to alert the public to the precarious situation of electricity and gas supplies. These problems built up a long time ago and were both predictable and predictable.
Ireland has had an unfortunate experience with natural gas. The discovery of the Kinsale Head field in 1974, Ireland’s largest resource discovery to date, was quickly followed by the allocation of much to the manufacture of fertilizer for export at a loss by the state-owned Nitrigin Eireann Teoranta. A third of Kinsale’s total production, now depleted, was wasted in this way, and it would have been cheaper to flare the gas at the wellhead.
The next find, and the only other significant to date, was the Corrib gas field off Co Mayo, not as large as Kinsale but a real chance, unfortunately not treated as such. Production was delayed for a decade thanks to the Irish objector-friendly planning system and a Scottish interconnector was built to supply the expanding market. Corrib will be exhausted around 2026 or 2027, Ireland has no gas storage, no LNG import terminal, a ban on new offshore gas exploration and an interconnection only with Scotland. The North Sea’s fields are rapidly depleting, Britain is expected to become heavily dependent on imports, and Britain’s long-term gas supply situation is also precarious.
As gas-fired electricity generation is essential to support renewables in Ireland, long-term electricity supply is also precarious. Electricity policy cannot be fixed without fixing gas.
For many years, proposals have been made to diversify gas supplies by building one or more import terminals for liquefied natural gas or LNG. Most European countries have increased the capacity of pipelines with LNG terminals and there is global maritime trade.
The first proposal to build a terminal on the Shannon Estuary was challenged on the grounds that it would reduce volumes imported through the state-owned interconnector. It never went ahead and was recently relaunched. Today’s supply problems would have been alleviated if a less blind view had been taken. The ban on offshore gas exploration appears to reflect a belief, shared by neither CRU nor EirGrid, that Ireland can do without gas.
Besides diversifying the gas supply, there are arguments in favor of incentives for gas storage, for which the most promising location (some engineers think the only one) is in Northern Ireland. Since the north and south gas networks are connected, there is no logical reason not to share the incentive costs.
There is still no official estimate of the infrastructure costs of decarbonization or how to meet them. They include new generation and transmission of electricity, additional expenses on the low voltage grid, on fast charging and on gas infrastructure.
The ultimate body responsible for energy policy in Ireland, and the parent company of CRU, EirGrid, ESB and Gas Networks Ireland, is the Department for Environment, Climate and Communications, successor to the Department for ‘Energy in its various incarnations. If there does not seem to be a coherent energy policy, the void can only be filled in this department.