Fresh delay hits Whitegate electricity plant’s return to operation

New problem at facility identified earlier this month

Shut-downs of both Whitegate and one of Energia’s two plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin, contributed to a squeeze on electricity supplies last winter that prompted formal warnings about stretched capacity. Photograph: iStock

Shut-downs of both Whitegate and one of Energia’s two plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin, contributed to a squeeze on electricity supplies last winter that prompted formal warnings about stretched capacity. Photograph: iStock

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Further delays have hit the return to action of one of two electricity plants whose temporary shut down hit energy supplies in the Republic last winter.

Bord Gáis Energy’s Whitegate power plant in Co Cork was due to restart operations on November 15th after shutting down to deal with unforeseen faults in December 2020.

However, the company said on Wednesday that the electricity plant will not now restart testing for commercial operations until December 3rd after the company identified a new problem during tests this month.

Shut-downs of both Whitegate and one of Energia’s two plants in Huntstown, Co Dublin, contributed to a squeeze on electricity supplies last winter that prompted formal warnings about stretched capacity.

Huntstown restarted generating power last month. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment acknowledged in the autumn that the return of both would play a key role in ensuring security of electricity supplies this winter.

Bord Gáis Energy pointed out that Whitegate, which generates 445 mega watts of electricity, had been undergoing work to return it to commercial operation following a forced outage that put it out of action for almost a year.

“This is a large scale and complex engineering task and is one which is being pursued with great thoroughness and expertise by all involved,” the company said.

“During the testing phase an issue was identified and is now under review. As per our regulated requirements the market has been notified that Whitegate will recommence testing for commercial operation December 3rd 2021.”

Bord Gáis Energy added that it would update the market as the situation developed.

Eight alerts

Between January and September this year the Irish electricity market operator issued eight alerts cautioning that demand had reached the point where reserves of electricity were tighter than ideal, increasing the risk of power cuts.

The temporary shut-downs of Huntstown and Whitegate, low wind speeds, which hit renewable electricity supplies, and the permanent closure of other generators, all combined to put power generation under pressure.

Data centres, widely blamed for rapidly rising electricity demand, will have to make their own power supplies available to the national grid to help ease the problem.

Mark Foley, chief executive of national electricity grid operator, Eirgrid, recently told politicians that “people can sleep in their beds at night and be satisfied they will have electricity”.

Eirgrid and State watchdog, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, recently warned that the Republic could have to continue burning coal to generate electricity beyond 2025 to ensure that power supplies keep up with demand.

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