Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Electrification Paradox

It is hard to determine exactly what the Government's long term strategy for electrification is. Like a lot of their energy policies, it is very incoherent and full of inconsistencies. Take Eirgrid's new initiative to reduce peak demand by compensating households to switch off :
EirGrid has launched a competition to identify a company who will pay householders to reduce their energy consumption at high demand times. This is one of the first times a transmission system operator (TSO) has run such a competition.  This pilot project will benefit up to 1500 householders, who will see their annual electricity bills cut by up to €100 by participating in this scheme.The competition is open to companies who will work with homeowners and EirGrid to provide a service known as “demand response”. Demand response enables electricity customers temporarily reduce their electricity consumption in response to requests from EirGrid, resulting in savings on their bills.In Ireland, businesses and industry can already do this; however, it has not been available to homeowners until now.The goal for EirGrid is to manage demand on the national grid and give homeowners more control over their electricity bills. Fintan Slye, Chief Executive, EirGrid, said: “This is a really exciting development in the electricity market. We often hear about “Smart Grids” and their benefits – this is it in reality - technology innovation that puts money back in people’s pockets.  Any measure that helps reduce overall demand on the grid, while not affecting our daily lives at work and at home, can only be a good thing in the long term.”

The reason they need to do this is because so much of our electricity is set to come from intermittent sources, mainly wind. If you have an intermittent source, then demand must also become intermittent i.e. dependent on the weather.

But the Government's Plan is to increase rail electrification in the future :

Rail electrification substantially reduces the use of fossil fuels in public transport. There has been significant progress with the introduction of DART and LUAS, and the recently published Capital Plan 2016-2021 [40] provided for further such public investment in the Greater Dublin Area. Further rail electrification will be a priority in future capital plans.
This will have the opposite effect, substantially increasing demand for electricity during peak demand times when people are leaving work. So people travelling home on an electric train will get paid not to switch on their cookers and other appliances when they arrive home. But the demand due to increased rail electrification will far outweigh the reductions from Eirgrid's demand side measures. This means that more dispatchable power stations will be required, most likely from fast acting fossil fuel sources such as gas or oil, to ensure that when a train is due to depart, it actually does so.

As noted on this blog before, no proper analysis has been done on this in terms of emissions or fuel saved. If we ran more efficient gas plants, with gradual ramping to meet gradual increases and decreases in demand, would we have more or less savings than one with a system that used wind energy and fast acting inefficient gas and oil plants as back up ?

And if you took the billions been spent on new energy infrastructure and invested that in passive houses and energy efficiency, you would most likely have a lot more savings than the current plans.

But if you don't do the calculations and allow ideology take over, as during the Celtic Tiger, then you are doomed to fail.


  1. Consumers could install diesel generators to suit their requirements. Get paid to turn off mains power and use diesel, could make a handsome profit. There is a proprietary switch, to prevent power flowing back up the line. The beauty is that the old mains power is still there for when needed and consumers can pick and choose. The engine heat could be diverted to heat the house. Noise should not matter if not used at night. Of course that will emit more co2, but who will be there to measure it? Those who cant afford a generator will pay the cost to keep power available.. Not fair, but then fairness is not the objective. The objective is to line wind farmer's pockets. The profitability of traditional power companies was based on sales, Now they are considering paying customers not to buy their product. Reverse psychology/ advertising. I wonder could they reduce alcohol/ tobacco consumption with this weird approach. Might even work with drug abuse. I wonder will my grocery store adopt a scheme to pay me not to buy their items. I will accept and buy in another shop. Simple home generation is inconvenient, but not if you have a back up supply which this crazy scheme does have.

  2. Sean O'Dubhlaoigh20 December 2015 at 23:08

    This Eirgrid plan is crazy beyond belief. Mystic Meg will be in continual use attempting to predict generation output shortages. One solution I suppose they could try is sending Met Éireann Staff down to the Amazon tracking the butterflies that flap their wings that cause the storms that will drive the wind turbines ,in Ireland ,5 or 6 days later.Thus identifying the periodic shortages likely between the storms.But then there is the issue of capacity factor decline as wind turbines age. Mystic Meg could hardly fix this or could she?. A nice little earner for Mystic Meg I reckon .

    1. Possibly President For Life, Mary Robinson is the new Mystic Meg ! By her will power alone, everything will be alright, no more need to do any analysis !

  3. Google Piers Corbyn on Andrew Neil you tube, brother of Jeremy, a left winger, he is a properly qualified Scientist. Very upset at the rip off of climate change. He joins Lord Monkton, Nigel Lawson and several more qualified people opposing the climate imposed poverty on the poor. Hopefully it is become comtagous