Recent coverage of tight energy supplies in Ireland is a useful reminder of the need to speed up the deployment of renewable power to ensure a more secure supply of electricity, writes Noel Cunniffe, CEO, Wind Energy Ireland.
While concern is understandable, it is important to be clear that the lights will stay on this winter. While speaking recently to Oireachtas members, Mark Foley, CEO of EirGrid, which manages Ireland’s electricity transmission system, reassured them that “people can sleep in their beds at night and be satisfied they will have electricity”.
As a former EirGrid employee myself, I know the organisation takes nothing more seriously than ensuring that, when you flick the switch, the lights come on. I believe the immediate risk to our electricity supply is passing but this does not mean we should become complacent.
There are three main reasons why energy security has become such a challenge in recent months.
First, because of a number of global factors, the international price of gas has risen rapidly in recent months, up 200/300% over last year. While wind energy provided around 38% of Ireland’s electricity in 2020, most of our power still comes from gas. So, when the price of gas rises internationally, we are especially vulnerable.
Second, two of Ireland’s most efficient and largest gas generators have been offline for repair for most of the year. This means we have had to rely on older and less-efficient generating plant. These charge more for the power they produce and they are already buying gas at much higher prices.
Finally, while wind energy had, to the end of September, provided almost 30% of Ireland’s electricity for the year to date, this was down on last year. The more wind on the system, the less we rely on imported fossil fuels and the lower the price of electricity on the wholesale market, which is the biggest factor in electricity bills.
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