Eirgrid lines up power companies to provide emergency electricity

Government set to build more gas-fired plants to counter expected squeeze on supplies

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan:  Government decided the development of new gas-fired power plants was a national priority. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan: Government decided the development of new gas-fired power plants was a national priority. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


ESB, Bord Gáis and SSE are among power companies poised to provide emergency electricity supplies in the State next winter.

The news follows Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan’s policy statement that the Government would prioritise the construction of more gas-fired power plants in the Republic to combat a squeeze on electricity supplies.

The policy statement also confirms that coal and fuel oil power generators, responsible for large quantities of carbon emissions, should be kept open until new gas-fired plants begin producing electricity.

Eirgrid recently sought bids from power generation companies to provide back up gas-fired electricity plants to ensure there are enough supplies to meet likely demand in winter 2022/23.

Provisional results show that businesses successfully bid to supply up to 1,120 megawatts (MW) through the auction. They include ESB, Bord Gáis, SSE, Veolia Alternative Energy, Statkraft, the Moyle Interconnector and several independent suppliers.

Eirgrid will confirm the final results of the process to participants by December 10th. They will supply power at a price of €46,150 a megawatt per year.

The State company began the auction in late October and arrived at the provisional results last month. According to Eirgrid, the process was designed to secure additional power supplies that may be needed based on forecast demand and the likely availability of existing power plants.

High demand

The closure of some peat-burning power plants and the temporary shutdown of two gas-fired generators combined with low wind speeds and high demand to squeeze electricity supplies this year.

Market overseers issued eight alerts between January and September warning that reserves were stretched to the point where there was an increased risk of power cuts should any other facilities be forced to close.

Eirgrid will hold a further auction in January aimed at recruiting companies to build additional gas-fired plants likely to begin generating electricity from 2024/25 to avoid further shortfalls in supplies.

The State company ran a similar process earlier this year aimed at securing enough electricity for those years, but the amount of power that companies pledged to supply fell short of what was sought. Companies blamed the fact that suppliers were unable to provide equipment for the power plants in the time required.

Eirgrid chief executive Mark Foley recently assured people that there were enough electricity supplies to see the Republic through this winter.

However, as demand continues to grow, Eirgrid will have to recruit more power companies to provide gas-fired electricity generators to meet demand that is expected to continue increasing.

Policy statement

On Tuesday Mr Ryan published a policy statement confirming that the Government had decided the development of new gas-fired power plants was a national priority.

The national development and climate action plans require the construction of standby gas-fired generators able to supply up to 2,000MW of electricity. These plants can be switched and off quickly to provide back-up to renewable generators such as wind and solar farms, which supply electricity intermittently.

Mr Ryan’s statement concedes that existing electricity plants including “coal, heavy fuel oil and biomass-fired generation” should be kept open until new gas-burning facilities are operating to ensure security of supplies.

Eirgrid and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) recently said the State’s coal and fuel oil plants may have to remain open after their scheduled closing dates in 2024 and 2025, to guarantee that the Republic has enough electricity to meet likely demand.

The policy statement also declares that before connecting organisations that need large amounts of electricity to the grid, Eirgrid and the CRU should take into account the impact on security of supplies and the need to “decarbonise” the grid.