Electricity demand falls less in Republic than in UK, Eirgrid says

Data centre need for energy in lockdown helps level of usage drop no more than 12%

Data centres in the Republic are bolstering demand for electricity.

Data centres in the Republic are bolstering demand for electricity.

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Data centres are helping to prop up electricity demand in the Republic, where lockdown energy consumption has fallen less than in Northern Ireland or Britain.

According to Mark Foley, chief executive of Eirgrid, the State company responsible for the electricity grids in the Republic and Northern Ireland, Covid-19 lockdowns cut energy demand in both jurisdictions.

Consumption has fallen 10-12 per cent in the Republic but is down 20 per cent in the North, where demand is similar to Britain.

Mr Foley pointed out that industry in the Republic is maintaining demand, particularly parts of the high-tech sector. “We have a lot of data centre activity here, which seems to have a mitigating effect, so there is a less of a drop than in Northern Ireland.”

Teams of four staff continue to run Eirgrid’s and System Operator Northern Ireland’s grid control centres in Dublin and Belfast.

Mr Foley explained that the State company has about 500 staff working from home, including those responsible for its information technology systems, which he noted held up very well over the last two months.

Working from home

Eirgrid sent staff home early as it did not want to expose the highly skilled specialists who run its control centres to possible infection.

Underlying pretax profit at Eirgrid grew 19 per cent to €22.3 million in its last financial year, which ended on September 30th, 2019, from €18.7 million the previous year, according to its annual report, published on Wednesday.

Eirgrid is paying a €4 million dividend to the exchequer based on this, the same return to the State as last year.

Meanwhile, Eirgrid has narrowed down to three locations the search for a site for the converter station for a proposed €1 billion power line between the Republic and France.

Dubbed the Celtic Interconnector, the cable will run from east Cork to Brittany. Eirgrid is considering two sites near Knockraha and one on IDA land at Ballyadam, near Carrigtwohill.

The project is a joint venture with Eirgrid’s French counterpart, RTE. The EU has approved a €530 million grant towards the cost.

Eirgrid is redeveloping the national grid to allow it cater for the increased number of renewable generators, mainly wind and solar power, needed to ensure the Republic meets climate change targets.

Brendan Tuohy, Eirgrid Group chairman, said new and strengthened electricity grid infrastructure would be needed for this.

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