A new report by the European Network of Grid Operators (ENTSOE) has shown that Great Britain may not have sufficient electricity generation capacity by 2020 to keep the lights on. This has a knock on affect here in Ireland where by 2022 it is envisaged that we will become more and more dependent on interconnectors.
ENTSOE have placed Britain at the highest risk level of grid blackouts in EU but state that expensive Capacity Mechanisms may prevent them from happening. For the layman reading, this is due to lack of investment in baseload generation - gas, coal, nuclear. Lack of sufficient baseload generation in UK means interconnectors to Ireland will lie idle (where Ireland is also strapped for reliable means of power to export to UK).
Eirgrid this year published their generation adequacy assessments up till 2025.
Of course, we have spent billions on new wind farms. But as ENTSEO state :
The contribution of RES [renewables] for adequacy purposes is less than for thermal plant.
I've dealt with this concept before - capacity credit. Wind farms don't keep the lights on, power stations do.
There is a further problem for the Irish Grid operators - Eirgrid - and that is the new data centres that are been built around the country. They consume lots of power - Eirgrid estimate that if all the data centres that are contracted are built, they will add a whopping 1,700MW on top of peak demand of about 5,000MW. This would mean we get into the red a lot quicker.
There is a quick fix to this, of sorts, and I hinted at it earlier - Capacity Mechanisms. This involves load shedding - paying factories large amounts of money to close for a period and / or diesel generation which can ramp up alot quicker than power stations. Ireland had about 60MW of diesel generation in 2014 (referred to as Demand Side Units), we now have 230MW ! And Eirgrid have said :
The capacity of Demand Side Units in Ireland has increased to 230 MW, and is set to increase further.
How ironic that the green revolution, the de-carbonization of our grid, the clean, green future has lead to us using more and more diesel generation - the most polluting form of electricity production. And of course, our neighbours England are also going down this path.
Incidentally, the data centres will have back up power in the event of widespread blackouts. No, not windmills, yes you guessed it - diesel generators. The new Apple data centre in Galway will have 18 generators with a total capacity of 288MW. The new green revolution is upon us !