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EirGrid Group report finds electricity demand continuing to grow

The all-island Generation Capacity Statement (GCS) examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply during the years 2020 to 2029

EirGrid

In Ireland, total electricity demand over the next 10 years is forecast to grow by between 19 per cent and 50 per cent

 

The all-island Generation Capacity Statement (GCS) examines the likely balance between electricity demand and supply during the years 2020 to 2029.

In preparing the report, 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. Both organisations are part of EirGrid Group.

In Ireland, total electricity demand over the next 10 years is forecast to grow by between 19 per cent and 50 per cent, largely driven by new large users, many of which are data centres. The analysis shows that data centres and large energy users could account for approximately 27 per cent of all electricity demand in Ireland by 2028.

In Northern Ireland, demand is relatively flat with the report’s median scenario showing an increase of 4 per cent over the next 10 years. The report provides low, median and high electricity demand forecasts for both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Mark Foley, chief executive of EirGrid Group, says; “Demand in Ireland is continuing to increase and is forecast to continue. With this increase in demand, and the expected decommissioning of generation plant due to decarbonisation targets and emissions standards, it is expected that new generation will be required.”

Mark Foley, chief executive of EirGrid Group: “With the increase in demand, and the expected decommissioning of generation plant due to decarbonisation targets and emissions standards, it is expected that new generation will be required.”
Mark Foley, chief executive of EirGrid Group

He added; “However, it is important to factor in the ongoing effects of Covid-19. The pandemic has had a significant real-time impact on electricity demand to date. While there have been signs that the impact may be short term, it is still too early to determine its effect and how long it may be felt.”

Since the GCS 2019-2028, EirGrid has received more detailed build out estimates from the data centres and large energy users across the country. When compared to last year’s report, this has resulted in a small reduction of the overall level of peak demand.

Demand forecasted from data centres and large energy users is not expected to be impacted significantly by COVID-19.

The GCS sets out how much progress has been made towards meeting Ireland and Northern Ireland targets for renewable energy. EirGrid and SONI are supporting the integration of more intermittent generation sources with initiatives that enable the power system to operate with up to 70 per cent variable renewable energy.

Last year the Irish Government committed to raise the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources to 70 per cent by 2030 in its Climate Action Plan 2019.

This represents a significant change for the electricity industry and for EirGrid. It is an opportunity to create a sustainable electricity system that will meet the needs for the next generation.

EirGrid and SONI recently published their 2020 to 2025 strategies, confirming their purpose is to “transform the power system for future generations”, with a primary goal to “lead the electricity sector on sustainability and decarbonisation”.

These strategies are consistent with both the Climate Action Plan 2019 and the UK Government target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

New wind farms commissioned in Ireland in 2019 brought the total wind capacity to 4,127 megawatts (MW), contributing to the increase in overall renewable energy to 36 per cent of demand. Other sources of renewable energy include biomass, hydro, solar PV and renewable waste.

To support the development of more renewable generation, the Government has introduced the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS); a series of auctions to help deliver increased amounts of renewable energy over the next decade.

The first auction took place last month and resulted in almost 500 MW of onshore wind projects, 796 MW of solar projects, and a further small amount from community projects being identified as provisional winners.

In Northern Ireland the 2010-20 Strategic Energy Framework includes a target of 40 per cent of electricity consumption to be met from renewable sources by 2020. 

More than 1,280 MW of wind is currently installed in Northern Ireland and this is set to grow to almost 1400 MW by 2024. 

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) generation has seen rapid growth in Northern Ireland in recent years.  A number of large-scale projects commissioned in 2017 and 2018 brought the total capacity to around 250 MW.  In October the Department for the Economy announced in that Northern Ireland had achieved its 40 per cent renewables target. This is likely to be met again in 2020. 

In Northern Ireland, a significant amount of electricity generation is due to decommission or be restricted due to emissions legislation. The report found that this situation would be relieved by the proposed North South Interconnector.

In Ireland, the report assumes that ESB Moneypoint in County Clare will not be available from the end of 2025 and there is a capacity deficit forecasted from 2026 in the median scenario. This will be addressed by the Single Electricity Market Capacity Auctions through which it is expected that new, sustainable generation will be procured.

About the Generation Capacity Statement

SONI is required by licence to produce an annual Generation Capacity Statement. Similarly, EirGrid, the transmission system operator in Ireland, has a regulatory requirement to publish forecast information about the power system, including an assessment of the balance between supply and demand.

A range of scenarios was prepared to forecast electricity demand over the time horizon of the report. In the adequacy assessment studies, the generation portfolio was modelled against the demand forecast, using the accepted standard risk. These studies were carried out separately for Ireland and Northern Ireland, and jointly on an all-island basis.

For more information, visit www.eirgrid.ie