Planners may limit time planned electricity generators can run, Eirgrid report indicates

Government submits two emergency planning applications for temporary plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin and North Wall in capital’s docks

Planners could limit the amount of time that new electricity generators planned for the Republic can run, a report from national grid operator, Eirgrid, indicates.

The State company ran auctions earlier this year in which it contracted with businesses including ESB, Bord Gáis and others to build new gas-fired generators to meet growing electricity demand.

Meanwhile, the Government submitted two emergency planning applications to An Bord Pleanála for temporary plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin and North Wall on the capital’s docks, to plug the growing gap between demand and supply in the Republic.

A report from Eirgrid earlier this week highlights that planning applications for two proposed power plants contracted through some of its auctions include restrictions on the amount of time that they can generate electricity in any one year.

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The company says that it has to assume that the so-called “run-hour limits” will apply if planners allow developers to build these power plants. However, Eirgrid confirmed this week that the limits have been lifted from one application.

The grid operator highlights the issue its General Capacity Statement, an all-Ireland snapshot of long- and short-term electricity demand and supply trends, which it published on Thursday.

Meanwhile, an emergency planning application by the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, for a temporary power plant at North Wall in Dublin states that it will run for 500 hours a-year “typically four hours per day when called on to run”.

That plant was not contracted through an Eirgrid auction, but is being installed as an emergency measure to compensate for the fact that some proposed generators are not going ahead as planned.

A shortage of power plants is one of the main reasons that the Republic is facing a squeeze on electricity supplies this winter, with the pre-Christmas build up and new year likely pinch points.

Eirgrid’s winter Outlook, a separate report from the capacity statement, states that the system could enter an emergency state at times over coming months as “due to insufficient generation being available to meet demand”.

The company expects “late November to mid-December and early January to mid-February” to be the periods where the margins between electricity demand and supply will be tightest.

Eirgrid has said several times recently that it expects alerts on the system this winter. It issues these when demand has reached the point where reserves are lower than ideal, increasing the risk of a power cut should an expected problem occur on the system.

Very cold weather, low wind speeds, which will cut renewable electricity supplies, and reduced imports from Britain could force system alerts.

Last winter’s mild weather meant that the Republic avoided system alerts, but there were several in the early months of 2021, a consequence of cold spells and the unexpected shut downs of two big gas-fired generators in Cork and Dublin, which have since returned to action.

Planning and licensing issues prevented developers from building power plants that were due to come on stream this winter, adding to the general squeeze on supplies.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas