Eire faces blackouts as country hits power generation crisis

According to Ireland’s grid operator, EirGrid, "maintaining the balance between supply and demand has become increasingly challenging".

Highlighting delayed generator maintenance and a significant increase in demand as two key factors, the operator’s concerns were supported by Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, from University College Cork, who stated that the country is facing the prospects of winter blackouts in 2021.

While the COVID pandemic has delayed the maintenance of two critical gas generators in Cork and Dublin, which have been out of service since winter 2020, talks to import emergency replacements have apparently stalled.

Futureproofing meets winterproofing

The challenge of meeting the increased demand, particularly over the coming winter months, has been increased by the longer-term demands of European directives which have taken certain types of conventional power generation out of the Eire grid.

Professor Ó Gallachóir noted that the situation was: "part of a process ... as our electricity system moves increasingly to a zero-carbon power system", highlighting the recent IPCC climate change report which has only served to increase the pressure on reducing emissions across all sectors including energy. He added: "The key challenge in electricity is doing that and at the same time ensuring that we have sufficient energy to keep the lights on and power things we need to go about our daily lives."

Renewable resolution?

While renewable energy generation in Eire has significantly increased over the past 20 years, so has energy demand; in particular, according to Professor Ó Gallachóir, the energy requirements for data centres which have become a key contributor to Eire’s economy, electric vehicles and heat pumps.

EirGrid commented: “These factors have the potential to place increased pressure on the supply-demand balance, particularly when demand for electricity is high and renewable generation is low."

The distributor was, however, confident that chances of returning the two generators - which deliver 15% of total demand – to full operation were “much improved”, while at the same time reducing the pressure on finding alternative solutions.