Whitegate and Huntstown plants may reopen to meet energy needs

Amid power cut risks, Bord Gáis Energy and Energia generators could restart in autumn

Forecasts that electricity demand will continue growing have increased the focus on the pressures faced by the Republic’s supply network.

Forecasts that electricity demand will continue growing have increased the focus on the pressures faced by the Republic’s supply network.

 

Two electricity plants whose shutdown added to a squeeze on energy supplies last winter could restart generating later this year.

Surging electricity demand combined with tight supplies last winter prompted market regulators to warn there was an increased risk of power cuts in Dublin should the network run into problems.

The shutdown of two power plants, Bord Gáis Energy’s Whitegate facility in Cork and one of Energia’s two generators in Huntstown, Dublin, compounded the problem.

It is understood that both could restart generating power in the autumn. Huntstown is scheduled to restart in October, while Whitegate could begin producing electricity in November.

Forecasts that electricity demand will continue growing have increased the focus on the pressures faced by the Republic’s supply network.

State development agency IDA Ireland has told the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) that last winter’s warnings sparked concerns among multinationals employing 257,000 people here.

Energy security

The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Communications this week said that the CRU and national grid operator Eirgrid were working to ensure continued electricity supplies in the short term.

Separately, the department is also working on a review of energy security over the rest of the decade.

However, the offshore exploration industry has criticised the review because it specifically excludes the use of any further natural gas wells that might be found in the Republic’s territorial waters.

Natural gas is used to generate about 60 per cent of the electricity used in the Republic.

The Corrib field provides one-third of this, while the balance is imported via a pipeline connected to the North Sea and the European network via Scotland, meaning imported gas is used to produce 40 per cent of electricity.

The Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) wrote to department general secretary Mark Griffin last December, asking that the review’s terms of reference be changed to take indigenous gas finds into account.

Corrib and Kinsale

Its letter points out that natural gas fields at Corrib off the Mayo coast and Kinsale off Co Cork, where production ended last year, have provided energy to the Republic for 40 years.

The security review rules out the use of Irish natural gas as the Government banned further offshore fossil fuel exploration in September 2019, although it is honouring licences issued before that.

Alan Linn, chairman of IOOA, warned on Thursday that Government policy was forcing the Republic to rely on importing all its gas and oil needs while EU production was declining.

He pointed out that Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France and Germany were all experiencing energy security problems as a result of imposing bans similar to the Republic’s.

“The offshore oil and gas exploration and production industry has a 50-year history of involvement in the Irish marine area,” he said.

“It has delivered four gas fields which helped secure Ireland’s energy security for the past 40 years.”