29 September 2021
Ireland is expected to experience electricity supply challenges over the coming years as demand increases and older power plants close, according to a new report from EirGrid.
The Generation Capacity Statement (GCS), which is published annually by EirGrid, examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply during the years 2021 to 2030.
It says the recent withdrawal of previously procured generation, and a recent auction which did not clear the desired amount of electricity capacity, means that if no action is taken, there is the potential for a shortfall in Ireland over the next five winters.
Mark Foley, EirGrid chief executive, said: “We expect system alerts to be a feature of the system over the coming winters and this winter is likely to be challenging.”
Since January 2020, there have been eight system alerts in Ireland due to a combination of factors. These include periods of very low wind, limited interconnector support from Great Britain due to its tight margins, prolonged outages at two large gas generators due to technical problems and the impact of Covid-19 on maintenance schedules.
In preparing the GCS, the two grid operators on the island, EirGrid in Ireland and SONI in Northern Ireland, consulted widely with industry participants and used the most up-to-date information.
The report found that despite a short-term reduction in electricity use due to Covid-19, demand in Ireland is on the rise and, long-term, it will increase significantly due to the expected expansion of large energy users. Large users are expected to account for 27% of electricity consumption by 2030.
It predicts that over the course of the next five years around 1,650 megawatts (MW) of generation will retire in Ireland, with up to a further 600 MW retiring in Northern Ireland.
Mr Foley added: “It is clear from the report that new, cleaner gas-fired generation plant is required now to address this issue, especially for when wind and solar generation is low. Appropriate volumes of dispatchable flexible gas generation are critical to support the transition to a low-carbon power system into the next decade, as we move to 70% renewables by 2030 and, ultimately, a zero-carbon power system.”
Looking out to 2030, the report says demand is set to increase as consumers find new ways to use electricity. New government policies are expected to encourage consumers away from fossil fuels toward alternative heating methods, such as electric heat pumps, and cleaner modes of transport, such as electric vehicles.
Most of this demand will be met from wind and solar energy as the power system is reshaped to meet the Government target of at least 70% of electricity demand coming from renewable sources by 2030.
Referencing the Information Note from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), Mr Foley stated: “There is a clear plan in place to secure electricity supplies in the short to medium term by retaining existing generating plant coupled with the deployment of temporary generation as required.”
Foley added “It is very important that the market gets a clear signal that new clean gas generation has a key role to play in the all-island power system over the next decade and beyond, and that market participants can feel confident to invest and participate in the market.”