State bodies not rejoicing over electricity savings initiative

Little was done by Eirgrid and SONI to tell consumers of supposed €200m savings

It is hard to imagine a State body not trumpeting an initiative that it believes will save consumers and businesses €200 million a year. But that is just what happened last week.

Electricity grid managers, Eirgrid and the System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI), gave the results of an auction to electricity companies operating throughout Ireland. The auction essentially decided which power plants would qualify for capacity payments once the new Integrated Single Electricity Market goes live in May.

Electricity users cover the cost of capacity payments through network charges on their bills. The money is used to pay energy suppliers for investing in and maintaining power plants.

Previously, Eirgrid and SONI paid about €55,000 for each mega watt (MW) of electricity that each power plant on the island of Ireland could generate. Under the new system, they will pay €41,800 a MW and are only paying for 9,400MW, out of a total capacity of almost 11,000MW across the country.


This means that some plants lost out. The auction was designed to weed out the least efficient and most expensive. Those were the results announced on Friday to the industry.

Lost out

As expected, a small number of power plants lost out, two owned by AES in Northern Ireland, one of Viridian's generators in Dublin and two ESB facilities in Cork. They face possible closure, with the accompanying loss of more than 200 jobs in total, most of those will be in AES's Kilroot and Ballylumford sites in Co Antrim.

Eirgrid and SONI told the industry, but made little effort to tell the public, the supposed beneficiaries of the €200 million savings.

Eirgrid and SONI are responsible for managing a critical part of Irish infrastructure, the electricity grids, but said little or nothing about an initiative that will supposedly benefit most of us, albeit at the potential cost of jobs.

Whether the impact will be positive or not remains to be seen, but Eirgrid, SONI and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities need to explain why they did little to inform the people whose interests they are meant to protect: the public.