Timmy Dooley’s claim to Claire Byrne on RTÉ radio yesterday that he doesn’t remember hearing about the dangerous state of the country’s electricity supply is curious.
If only he had heard a Timmy Dooley address the Dáil not long ago in 2017 on the dangerous state of the country’s electricity supply.
He tabled a motion demanding that work on the north-south power link be halted until the plan to use above-ground pylons instead of underground cables was reviewed.
This project was and is controversial. The interconnector was first proposed some 16 years ago but has met with much opposition over Eirgrid’s insistence that power poles marching 90 miles (140 km) of land are the only way to proceed.
A renewed attempt at enforcement in 2017 triggered a new wave of resistance. Hence Dooley’s request.
“We recognize that the North-South Interconnector will play a significant role in depicting power outages,” he said, before pleading for the project to be suspended.
Later in 2017, Eirgrid released a 10-year outlook, forecasting a dramatic increase in electricity demand, mainly from data centers, while emphasizing the need for large investments in generation capacity and the transmission grid.
Since then, the issue of energy security has been frequently analysed, reported, highlighted, debated and ignored.
The 2019 Climate Action Plan states that our renewable energy goals need to be supported by “a range of technology solutions that enable large-scale interconnection, storage and on-demand capacity, e.g. g. natural gas installations”.
The 2021 follow-up reinforced the point: “In 2030, approximately 5,000 MW of conventional generation capacity will be needed, of which 2,000 MW will likely be new construction in the coming years.” Conventional means gas.
Deputy Dooley’s surprise, apparently shared by many of his coalition colleagues, mirrored that of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who complained that he had not received a better warning of the looming supply shortage.
Brian Ó Gallachóir, Professor of Energy Engineering at UCC’s MaREI Center, then helpfully tweeted 10 examples of where they’ve raised the issue on public forums since 2018.
Perhaps it’s too much to hope that politicians’ memories go back four or five years, but they don’t have to.
In early summer 2021, Eirgrid and the energy regulator warned of imminent problems due to the combination of sharply increasing demand, mainly from data centres, insufficient generation capacity and weak transmission infrastructure.
Political and public debates raged for months afterwards.
In November 2021, Eirgrid released a comprehensive report detailing how the extensive new transmission grid is needed for the transition to renewable energy and emphasizing that existing and new gas generation is needed to support the transition.
In the meantime, the Central Statistical Office has reported several times on the massive power consumption of data centers.
We had a barrage of yellow alerts. The wind energy industry has repeatedly warned that new planning processes they need to advance offshore renewable energy are horribly behind schedule.
Problems in obtaining short- to medium-term gas generation capacity and a war that has put all these problems in the spotlight have been widely reported in the media.
And yet, when the energy regulator is conducting an emergency consultation with electric utilities to find ways to moderate peak demand to avoid blackouts, some politicians are startled.
“I’m surprised they were surprised,” Don Moore, former head of ESB International, told Claire Byrne when asked about the reaction.
“The information was out there in public.”
You’d better grab the opportunity to read it now, before the lights go out.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/political-surprise-over-perilous-power-supply-is-hard-to-accept-41933094.html Political “surprise” about dangerous electricity supply is difficult to accept