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The Immediate SPoF threat to Ireland’s electricity and gas supply

  • 13-04-2019 12:06pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,667 ✭✭✭

    ‘Britain’s (and Ireland’s) only link with continental Europe’s natural gas network is at risk of tumbling into the North Sea, prompting a rescue involving thousands of tons of sand’. (Bloomberg yesterday). Becton in Norfolk has all of Britain’s gas pipeline connections with mainland Europe coming together in one site. The Becton site (which is 50 years old) is rapidly losing land to coastal erosion in the North Sea. This creates an high risk Single Point of Failure (SPoF) for Ireland’s energy supply (for both gas and electricity)*. ‘A single storm in December 2013 wiped out 10 meters of cliff, according to Royal Harkening, the Dutch company that’s been hired to fortify the beach in front of the terminal’. The erosion rates in this part of GB are extremely volatile.
    Only about 50% of Ireland’s gas requirement is sourced in the Corrib field, a number which declines every year. The remainder has to be imported via GB.

    While on a good (windy) day, Ireland can generate more than half its electricity needs from wind, gas is a major carrier of energy used in the production of electricity in Ireland. Ireland’s wind turbine industry can generate about 30% of the total electricity requirement in TWh terms annually. Solar power has been largely neglected by Ireland.

    The creaking Irish planning ‘non-system’ is doing everything possible to put a spanner in the works to prevent the rapid construction and commissioning of a Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in the Shannon estuary**. This LNG terminal would allow Ireland to diversify its sources of imported gas (importing gas from Qatar, Australia, Oman, Russia, Algeria, Indonesia, Nigeria, Malaysia, the US, and in future from Cyprus/Israel etc).

    The proposed direct HVDC power + fiber optic telecommunications link to France is moving into design and planning at a glacial pace, with a target start of service date of 2026. Some five ground station locations are ‘under consideration’ in East Cork. The obvious place to bring the cable onshore is near Whitegate***, where there is existing high capacity (and probably expandable – (as in adding cables to existing pylons) grid connectivity. This ‘skinny pipe’ (Hibernia interconnector) will only carry 700 MW of electric power (about 10% of national demand). While there are plans to build further interconnectors to GB (where much of the under-engineered infrastructure is about to be eroded by the North Sea), and where Ireland is faced with Brexit unknowns and an unstable currency. There appears to be no further plan to ramp up the direct electricity interconnection between Ireland. and mainland Europe. Given the deep fracture that is Brexit, Ireland should be planning for the event of a British civil war in terms of security of logistics and supply matters. Even with the best will in the world, if push came to shove, Britain would look after its own energy needs first. Brexit sentiments are nothing new – they have existed in Britain for centuries. They will not go away in 2019 or anytime soon.

    Ireland has been holding back on the development of both offshore and onshore wind for decades. It currently has up to 4GW of wind generation capacity and it could easily install 20 GW of wind capacity and export most of this to France and beyond. This would generate about 6bn EUR in revenue PA based on 40% efficiency of offshore/onshore wind generation at a wholesale price of EUR 80 per MWh. (Ireland’s peak wholesale price has been up to EUR 3’774 per MWh). France has an ageing fleet of nuclear power stations, many of which are well past their use-by date. France is one of the best grid-interconnected countries in the world. There is no shortage of international capital to build on and offshore wind electricity generation capacity in Ireland. If Ireland had 20GW of wind turbines on site, the need for rapidly depleting gas and dirty coal power would be negligible, if anything, as the small amount of energy to make up the shortfall could be imported over the same network. Offshore wind infrastructure in particular, on this scale would generate some power in virtually all weather conditions. This would allow the country to more than meet its EU greenhouse gas targets, and help others achieve the same.

    Data centres, those in operation, as well as those planned, will shortly consume 25% of all electricity generated in Ireland, if matters proceed ‘by default’. Until the reliance on Britain for energy is removed from the equation, serious consideration should be given to pausing the roll out of data centres, as well as putting a cap on new heavy energy consuming industries – eg pharmaceuticals and semiconductors. (I say this reluctantly, as one of the people who promoted the idea of data centres in Ireland as a globally traded service in the late 1990s).

    Transportation, particularly cars and buses will be a large user of electric power in Ireland from 2021 onwards. Which is ‘past now’ in planning terms. The word ‘car’ appears once, in a footnote in Eirgrid’s ‘All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2018-2027’ document.***** VW plans to have a replacement for the eGolf next year, the IQ, which is expected to come with three battery options giving small, medium and long range, up to 500 km. At a similar price to the Golf. That is just one auto manufacturer. The company has said that the battery system is in the bag. There are videos of the vehicle being tested in South Africa on The ESB’s charging station network is miserly, under-powered, and un-reliable. If diesel and gasoline was sold with the same degree of availability, reliability and drip filling speed, there would be an insurrection among motorists!

    Today’s Irish Examiner has an article covering a Danish report that suggests that Apple, Google, Facebook etc should pay for the capital cost of electricity generation to feed their Danish data centres*****. Perhaps the same should apply to pharma et al in Ireland?

    If a tiny third world country like Israel can land on the moon (as happened last Friday), surely Ireland can fix its energy infrastructure?


    **LNG terminal:

    IRL Gas supply and demand map (1978 to 2040) – ‘Shannon LNG’ is running behind schedule:

    ***Eirgrid network map:

    ****Eirgrid capacity planning statement:

    Origin of Irish gas supply:

    Gas pipeline map:

    *****Danish report on Google power funding etc:

    SPoF generic definition and examples:

    Ireland wind map:,-17.732,7

    Holding the seas back in Norfolk:
    Drone video:


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 40,061 ✭✭✭✭Harry Palmr

    What the feck? Israel third world? They are more tech developed than Ireland!

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,667 ✭✭✭Impetus

    What the feck? Israel third world? They are more tech developed than Ireland!
    I thought that sentence might get somebody's attention. Israel has about half the GDP per capita of Ireland's.

  • Registered Users Posts: 353 ✭✭Moghead

    Impetus wrote: »
    I thought that sentence might get somebody's attention. Israel has about half the GDP per capita of Ireland's.

    Israel is not a third world country.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,667 ✭✭✭Impetus

    "Centrica has warned that future access to electricity interconnectors between Britain and Ireland could affect the ability of its Bord Gais subsidiary to set electricity prices after Brexit. The Sunday Times writes that that company also warned the future of the integrated single electricity market on the island of Ireland might be also at risk."

    (The Irish Times)

    The current bright genii 'civil service plan' is to build about five more electricity interconnectors with GB! Britain is a big foreign exchange volatility risk for Irish consumers and businesses, and offers no balance to a heavily wind oriented Irish generation platform. Unlike the rest of Europe.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,023 ✭✭✭Good loser

    Definitely believe any Data Centre should generate it's own power/electricity.
    Probably also the Pharma companies - these at least have reasonable employment and on going mtce needs whereas the data centres are largely passive once built (imo).
    One of the objectors to Apple in Loughrea was based on it adding some 3% to energy usage in the State.

    Does anyone know what the Courts made of this objection?

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