Sunday 26 December 2021

Off Grid Electricity keeps Lights On

Significant amounts of Diesel generation keeping the lights on at times 

 "With regard to demand side units, even at the start of September we saw a significantly tight period. At that point, wind was giving us very low electricity. Demand side units were asked to become active and they did. They can respond and they can make a material difference there " - Energy Regulator, October 2021

Demand side units are off Grid forms of generation that allow large users of electricity to switch off from the grid and generate their own.

According to eirgrid, most of this form of generation is diesel generators :

Industrial generation refers to generation, usually powered by diesel engines, located on industrial or commercial premises, which acts as on-site supply during peak demand and emergency periods [Eirgrid Report]

The energy regulator, in an Oireachtas Committee debate in October stated that these generators made a material difference in September when wind speeds were low.

What this means is that at times a significant proportion of electricity produced in this country is not counted in the official figures. So when you read that gas has produced 57 % and wind 35 %, these figures refer only to the on grid proportion only. We do not have figures for off Grid which is mainly diesel. 

Saturday 25 December 2021

A Solution to the Collatz Conjecture

I recently came across The Collatz Conjecture and was intrigued by how simple the puzzle was. It works like this - take an even number, divide it by two, if you end up with an odd number, multiply it by three and add one. It appears that for every number you begin with, you always ends up back at 1 through the sequence 4 - 2 - 1. Many mathematicians regard the conjecture as impossible to prove. However,  I came up with a very simple proof in half a day. 

This is a useful calculator to check various numbers and sequences :

The first step must be to begin with the simplest odd and even numbers - 1 and 2. 1 always goes to 4 and 2 always goes to 1. Every single number to infinity is comprised of these two numbers so it shouldn't really be surprising that we end up back at 4 - 2 - 1 for every number. The puzzle is set up from the start to return to this loop. 

Next, you have to understand that it is irrelevant how high the number is we start with or how high a number we reach. All that matters is the very last digit in each number. 20,036 is the same as 2,036 or 136. This is because we count to the root of 10. If you break down numbers into blocks of ten,  then 15 is simply the number 5 repeated again except it is on the second row of numbers (think of bricks in a wall). In music, there are only 12 notes, however, you can play an A note an octave higher, the musical equivalent of the second row of numbers.  Therefore, the exact same pattern or sequence will repeat itself over and over again regardless of the magnitude of the numbers. 





You will of course notice that there are variations in the sequence in those last digits. This is because different patterns repeat themselves in every second row of numbers. This flow chart gives a handy summary of the sequences :

So these variations repeat themselves and therefore the conjecture is based on very simple predictable sequences. A number ending in 6 can go to either a number ending in 8 or 3. 8 brings you to either a 9 or a 4. 9 always brings you back to an 8. Take 19 or 25,379 - you will always end up with a number ending in 8 after multiplying by 3 and adding 1. 

4 brings you to either a 7 or a 2 depending on whether the number is on every first or second row of numbers. The numbers 14, 34, 54, 74, 94, 114 etc will give you numbers ending in 7 while 24, 44, 64, 84 etc will give you numbers ending in 2. 

The next step is to check if there is a magic sequence that reduces a very high number to a very low number. This is an important step because it explains how we can go from a very high number to a low number approaching 4, 8 or 16 i.e. the final sequence in a few steps. 

 The answer is that there are two magic sequences. By continually multiplying by three and adding one, no matter what number you begin with, you will always arrive at a magic sequence eventually. Or another way of putting it, no matter how high you go, you will always return to a very low number. The first magic sequence is 8,4,2,1. This sequence arises from a simple fact that every school kid with basic knowledge of mathematics knows -  that if you divide any square of 2 in half you will always arrive at a sequence of numbers divisible by 2.  Magic sequence number 1 results in a cascade of numbers all the way down to 1. There may be other numbers in front of that 1 but this proves the tendency of the conjecture to approach 1.

The second magic sequence is 6,3,0,0,0,5 with some variation in the number of zeros. This arises out of the fact that sometimes numbers ending in 6 give a number ending in 3 which then always gives a number ending in zero. Zero numbers always half very neatly and give another cascade effect - e.g. 160, 80, 40, 20, 10 which then gives a 5. Normally, magic sequence #2 follows #1 resulting in a super cascade effect as you can see in this example. Also, if magic sequence #1 is interrupted by a 7 say, magic seq #2 will usually follow.  


We can see that 976 results in 61 after four steps which is 16 times less or  24   times. So magic seq#1 gives  976/24   = 61. Three steps later, we are at 46 and now locked into magic seq#2 which gives us 35 and then 160. 160 cascades to 5 after five steps, a drop of 32 times or 25  times.  Once we get to single digit 5, we will always end up back at 1. 

Here is another example. In this one, we don't reach a magic sequence for a while but once we do we are very nearly there. 


Some numbers like 27 just take longer to reach one of the magic sequences, 65 steps in fact. Then once the second magic sequence is reached after that, we are very close to the end. 

So there is no mystery at all here. We have endless time and limitless amounts of steps which means we will inevitably reach those magic sequences which are the simple result of counting to the base of 10 and the inherent characteristic of the number 2 and its squares. Remember that built into the rules is the number 2 - 1, 2, 4..

The only mystery is how this conjecture has puzzled mathematicians for so long. 

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Eirgrid to Underground New Grid Infrastructure

 Over the past decade, as many readers will know, there has been a huge furor in many communities north and south of the border about the North South Interconnector. With the main bone of contention being the decision by Eirgrid not to underground it. However, it looks like Eirgrid have finally learned a lesson from that and are now listening to communities. But surely this new approach by Eirgrid raises questions about their existing plans for the North South Interconnector ?

On the grid side, we have made three decisions in the past 12 months that we arguably might not have made five years ago. We declared that two major pieces of grid infrastructure are going underground. The first is in the Dublin-Kildare region where we have made the call and said a critical piece of west Dublin infrastructure is going to be underground.

We have said the line to Mayo will be underground and the converter station for the Celtic Interconnector, one of Ireland's most critical projects which will link us to France, will be located not beside the substation in Knockraha, but in an industrial site in Ballyadam. This is because that is what communities asked us to do - Mark Foley, CEO Eirgrid

Link :

Friday 10 December 2021

The Green Europe and Unsustainable Finances Paradox


The graph below shows the total balance sheet assets of three of the world's major banks - the Fed in America, European Central Bank and Bank of Japan. It is noteworthy for many reasons. Firstly, the ECB has overtaken the other two with total assets of $9.6 trillion. Most of this is due to quantitative easing (QE) or money printing. 

The ECB has been engaging in large scale QE since 2015, long before the covid pandemic. Which is odd since most of Europe's economies were strong then. Certainly, here in Ireland, house prices were rising again, as were rents by 2015 and 2016. At the end of 2016, the government brought in rent controls to cap rent increases. Also in early 2016, the European Commission expected Ireland to be the fastest growing economy in Europe. Yet, Ireland was been flooded with this cheap ECB money which the government was only too happy to take and spend in an economy beginning to heat up (on a side note - it didnt fix the health service did it ?). 

As the pandemic hit in March 2020, the ECB went even further than US and Japan and printed enormous amounts of euros to the extent that they practically doubled their balance sheet. Although there are other factors impacting inflation right now, I believe this to be one of the main reasons, if not the most significant. Over half of this new money has gone to government bonds, a record amount of central bank financing of government debt. Normally, the government would have to go to the market to trade their bonds. But we are far away from normal in this age of negative interest rates. Now the central bank prints the new money to buy government bonds that presumably most of the market would not touch.

What is remarkable about all this is that, in a Europe completely captured by the green movement,  government finances have been allowed to reach such epic unsustainable proportions. Surely, government spending should be reduced so as to reduce consumption. Enabling countries to spend beyond their means and deferring the cost of excessive consumption should be the last thing that green politicians should want. It's true, that some of this spending has gone on renewable infrastructure such as wind turbines and pylons (about € 1 trillion) . But these technologies require large amounts of rare earths and metals to produce and so contribute to more consumption and more mining of the planet. Instead, the preferred method to reduce consumption is through taxation. The problem with taxing fuel and electricity is that it results in yet more government spending as the poor and working class become even poorer and are unable to pay for necessities like fuel and electricity. The government then gets locked into a spending cycle where pressure comes on it to increase social welfare supports and just recently the Irish government has planned to give every household €100 off their electricity bill. The cycle of taxation - borrow / spend - inflation - tax - borrow - inflation continues.

If we were really serious about sustainability then we would get our finances in order first. By encouraging people to save instead of spend, we slow that economic growth that eco warriors claim is destroying our planet. We put the future on a firm sustainable footing. But instead we have created the exact opposite environment of low / negative interest rates where people are unable to save and governments spend beyond their wildest dreams. 

It is incredible to me that green politicians are not aware of this simple paradox. Or perhaps that old saying "money talks" is more relevant than ever and still overrides all of the green buzzwords that politicians love to use. 

Thursday 2 December 2021

More Gas Power Stations to be Built

The government have issued a policy statement on security of electricity supply which states :

  • the development of new conventional generation (including gas-fired and gasoil/distillate-fired generation) is a national priority and should be permitted and supported in order to ensure security of electricity supply and support the growth of renewable electricity generation
This amounts to an admission that the renewable programme has failed. Imagine if a smoker said I will need to smoke more just to support my attempt at quitting smoking. They would rightly be ridiculed.
  • it is appropriate that existing conventional electricity generation capacity should be retained until the new conventional electricity generation capacity is developed in order to ensure security of electricity supply
Many years ago on this blog I warned that wind energy would never be capable of replacing a power station. Here we have an admission that Moneypoint coal power station and Tarbert oil power station cannot be replaced by renewables. So what is the point? Henry Ford's model T replaced the horse and cart. The telephone replaced the telegram.

The same government banned gas and oil exploration and of course a coal mine would never be allowed to open again in Ireland. So what will all these fossil fuel power stations run on in the new energy scarce future ? Hot air? Wishful thinking? Empty platitudes? Virtue signalling? Of those, we have plenty. 

Saturday 27 November 2021

Can the VAT rate on Electricity be Reduced?

Sinn Féin suggested recently that the VAT rate on electricity, currently at 13.5%, be temporarily removed to ease the burden on households over the winter. The government have claimed that they can't do that due to EU law. In this post, I will take a quick look at the VAT Directive and try to establish what is actually permitted. 

First of all, there is no doubt that the minimum vat rate allowed is 5%, so that rules out a complete removal of vat :

"The reduced rates shall be fixed as a percentage of the taxable amount, which may not be less than 5 %"

Next, Article 118 states that certain services cannot go below 12% and this was referred to by the government as applicable to electricity. As electricity comes under Annex 1, it would seem that the government is correct (- -but wouldn't 12% be better than no reduction ? ) :

" Article 118

 Member States which, at 1 January 1991, were applying a reduced rate to the supply of goods or services other than those specified in Annex III may apply the reduced rate, or one of the two reduced rates, provided for in Article 98 to the supply of those goods or services, provided that the rate is not lower than 12 %". 

However, something that has been noticed before is that there is often a grey area with EU law. Article 102 deals specifically with the supply of energy, including electricity and allows for either of the two reduced rates to be applied. In the case of Ireland, the two reduced rates are 13.5% and 9% (for hotels) :

"Article 102

After consultation of the VAT Committee, each Member State may apply a reduced rate to the supply of natural gas, electricity or district heating"

It is remarkable that no reference is made here to the minimum rate of 12%, but as article 102 precedes 118, perhaps it is inferred that 102 can be relied upon alone in relation to electricity. In that case, surely, a reference to the exception under 102 should have been made in 118. 

I am no legal expert and perhaps someone can comment below on what they think. 

We can test the legal recipes in the EU VAT directive by the results. And here, it would seem to be the case that when we look at other European countries, the vat on electricity can be reduced to a minimum of 5%.

- - Portugal reduced the vat on electricity to 6% for low usage households in 2019. Initial figures show that the reduced rate applies to about 42% of customers with the rest paying vat at the higher rate of 23%.

- - Spain have introduced a temporary reduction to 10% for low usage customers until December 2021. After that, the vat will revert to the normal 21% rate. It is estimated that the vast majority of households and businesses will qualify for the reduced 10 % rate. 

- - Italy have a fixed vat rate of 10% on electricity. This proves that the minimum rate of 12% does not apply to electricity as per article 102 . Applying the Italian model to Ireland would mean we could reduce our vat rate to 9% on electricity. 

- - Greece have a super reduced vat rate of 6% on electricity since 2019. This also applies to medicine and vaccines as well as children's books. Their normal reduced rate is 13 % which applies to hotels. It is interesting to see that in Ireland we seem to have our priorities completely wrong with hotels regarded as more essential than electricity. 

- - The UK had along with Malta the lowest vat rate on electricity in the EU with a rate of 5%. One of the reasons for brexit is that they were not able to reduce it to zero. 

- - Luxembourg have a vat rate of 8% on electricity. 

It seems clear that the vat rate on electricity can be lowered to at least 9%. But the government have chosen the spending option as usual which means additional handouts to struggling families. Which in turn will lead to a cycle of inflation as bills rise even more. 

Thursday 25 November 2021

EU Ban Scottish Potato Seeds

 Ireland has been importing potato seeds from Scotland for over 150 years but amazingly the EU has banned them following Brexit because they do not comply with "phytosanitary rules". I thought it truly remarkable that the most virus resistant seed available to Ireland since the Great Famine does not comply with EU rules. And we pay the EU for the privilege. 




Wednesday 24 November 2021

Peak Winter Demand Arrives

Things get a little bit shaky !

 Last night at 5.30pm, the electricity grid hit peak demand for All Ireland at 6,638MW - not far off Record peak demand of 6,878MW reached on December 21st last year.


But total system generation was only 6,106MW leaving a shortfall of 532MW.  

Wind energy was low most of the day, only 380MW or about 7% was available for the whole island at 5.30pm.

The two UK interconnectors saved the day with combined imports of 450MW. There was still a shortfall of about 80MW, made up presumably from demand side units. These would comprise mostly of diesel generators and combined heat and power units. These units are "non-centrally monitored" according to Eirgrid and are not included in these graphs.  

Of course, that damned Brexit lot across the sea with their dastardly nuclear power charged us handsomely for the imported power, at € 2,000 a MW. 

To give some credit to the Irish grid operators, they were correct to build the East West interconnector as it is making up for the once efficient gas plant that have been prematurely wrecked from backing up the wind. One just hopes that the UK will have sufficient power to give us on those cold winter nights over the next few months. 

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Whitegate and Dublin Bay Power Stations Trip

 850MW of generation lost last night

Both Whitegate and Dublin Bay gas power stations tripped last night a few hours after I had published about the return of Whitegate power station. Dublin Bay appears to be back this morning but Whitegate is still offline. This shows the precarious nature we are in. It now means we are dependent on a not too dependent interconnector and wind system. 

There is no reason given for the outages. It's possible that the loss of one power station can trip another but whether this is what occurred last night I do not know. 

Monday 22 November 2021

Whitegate Gas Power Station back in Action

 Whitegate power station has in the past hour returned to operation after nearly 12 months out of action due to a turbine fault. It is expected to return to full commercial operation tomorrow. A small loose bit of metal caused significant damage last December to what is a very sensitive piece of equipment. It was due back at the beginning of November. The return of the 444MW power station comes just at a good time as the weather has turned cold and demand is rising. Also imports from the UK  and wind energy appear to be very low in the past few days. 

Back in July, the Energy Regulator warned that power stations have become less reliable due to extreme operational requirements that they were not designed for during periods of intermittent wind. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Is the Covid Vaccine Working ? (Part 2)

 The covid vaccines do not seem to be having the same impact as previous vaccine rollouts such as the MMR vaccine :

Source :

Introduced in October 1988, there was a 90% vaccination rate for children in the UK, similar to the rate of the covid vaccine here in Ireland. The impact is apparent in the sharp fall in rates of infection in the following years. 

Saturday 6 November 2021

Saving the Amazon not on the COP26 Menu

 I had a quick look at the objectives of COP26. The main ones are - lower emissions, stop coal, more EVs, more renewables, protect only those ecosystems affected by climate change and printing more money.

The biggest environmental problem in the world today is the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The leading cause is cattle ranching. Banning the importation of Brazilian beef until the destruction stops would help save the rainforests. 

But that is not on the menu at COP26. The modern environmental movement is not fit for purpose.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Precarious Winter Outlook

According to the Eirgrid Winter Outlook, the Irish electricity system will be operating at twice the level of acceptable risk this winter. The system is expected to enter the Alert State at times of low wind, low interconnector imports and low temperatures. No mention is made of Huntstown or Whitegate power stations. Are they assumed to return as expected? We are not told [update: it appears that Huntstown will be back later this week]. 

There are a number of engineering realities that are laid bare in the report that are a sobering read and at odds with the endless spin that has been published in the past in the media about green energy. 

•  Only 9% of total wind energy capacity is deemed as reliable or can be relied upon. 

•  Forced outage rates (the rate at which power stations are breaking down) have increased by 5 times over the past 5 years. This would appear to indicate that these power stations cannot cope with higher levels of intermittent wind energy.

•  Some CCGT (gas) plant is scheduled to be unavailable for 5-6 weeks of the winter period because of scheduled maintenance. This will be in November and early March. There is no guarantee that wind energy will be available during these weeks and, hence, the highest risk of blackouts will occur during these periods. This proves that wind energy cannot replace, nor is it equivalent to, a power station. 

There is also another factor which does not seem to be included in this report. Wind farms, like power stations, also need maintenance - in particular, the older fleet. Whilst it is unlikely that a significant amount of them would break down at the same time, sourcing replacement parts may take more time than normal in the present supply chain crisis. 

This is the first time that Eirgrid have published a winter outlook that warns of a high risk of blackouts. Last year, they were concerned about a trend of "increasing demand, dispatchable generation exiting the market and increasing generator forced outage rates". 

They were correct, that trend has continued into this year. Did anyone listen or take note ? Of course not. But then Eirgrid's own chief, Mark Foley, dismissed concerns about blackouts, saying  people can sleep soundly in their beds this winter.  

We must trust the plan. 

Monday 18 October 2021

Daylight Fuel Robbery

An independent TD has brilliantly summed up the ongoing theft of motorists by the government :

"if you fill your car with €100 of fuel today, the shopkeeper who works in the shop and has people and wages to pay gets just €3.90, the companies that operates the refineries and drills the oil and deliver it all around the country gets €34, and the government who sits in the dail and have nothing to do with producing or supplying the fuel gets a whopping €54"... This has got to change.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Why Inflation will not be Temporary


The current conventional wisdom is that inflation in Ireland will only be temporary as the economy recovers from the covid lockdowns. But this can only be the case if there was deflation during the lockdowns which the re-opening induced inflation would now be negating. The only deflation that occurred during the lockdowns that I can remember was petrol prices. Core consumer items such as food, electricity bills and rent did not fall or at least not in any noticeable way. A period of deflation is not equivalent with an economy being closed down. A rental freeze is not deflation. This is the mistake the economic experts are making. They also have not taken into account the effects of the large government spending. 

When a hotel or other business is shutdown, its prices do not reduce, the service simply ceases to exist. In fact, inflation will likely occur. Say two hotels close down in a region leaving only one hotel open. This will lead to a period of inflation as the remaining hotel raises its prices to take advantage of the increased demand and reduced supply. The difference between this scenario and the lockdown was that  during the lockdown all three hotels were shutdown meaning there was no deflationary pressure. Then when the hotels opened, they could charge high prices because people had a lot of savings. This was an unintended consequence of the high level of unemployment support.  And the same happened with rent, an opportunity was missed during lockdown to bring about rental deflation through a smaller Pandemic Unemployment Benefit. Instead, the government went along with the calls from the most populist spending cheer-leaders.  

Another point that is missed is that many businesses may never re-open again. This will bring further inflationary pressure as supply reduces. 

As you can see from the graph above, the sharpest fall in prices was in November 2020 when year on year deflation reached -1.5%. This was the sharpest fall in a decade. In less than 12 months however , the inflation has skyrocketed to +3.7%.

While there are other factors impacting inflation right now, such as our high dependence on global supply chains, the high levels of pandemic payments paid out last year are part of the reason why Ireland has inflation above the EU average and even above UK's inflation rate of 3.2%. People saved up, then spent most of it in-between the lockdowns leaving little pressure on businesses to drop their prices. Little haggling took place with landlords who should have been under severe pressure to drop their rents during a period of very little house moving by job hunters both within Ireland and those coming from abroad. 

But as every economist should know but seems to have forgotten, all this money had to be printed, which was happening at a high rate prior to the pandemic anyway. Too much money printing or quantitative easing (or whatever you want to call it) , and the inflation snail eventually catches up with you. Too much money ends up chasing too few goods.  And then the snail begins to look like a rabbit. 

Monday 4 October 2021

Gas Prices Rise and Fall but Energy Bills never get Cheaper

People's memories are short in Ireland so now is a good time to remind them that gas prices rise and fall but energy bills never get cheaper. This is a quote from an Irish Independent article from 2015 :


 "Irish consumers pay the fourth-highest energy bills in Europe, according to EU statistics. Little of the large recent falls in wholesale gas and oil prices have been passed on to consumers".

The energy industry and politicians are now blaming high gas prices for the massive rise in electricity prices. In a properly functioning market, falls in wholesale prices would lead to lower bills. It has to work both ways. This clearly did not happen. 

Thursday 30 September 2021

How Close is Ireland to Blackouts ?


                                  Chart 1 - The green line includes all potentially available capacity whether currently in use or not. Some adjustments have been made to the red line to take account of the temporary loss of two gas and one oil generators . 

The above graph shows how Ireland's electricity supply position has evolved since the height of the building boom in 2006. The green line shows the total generation capacity that consumers must pay for including wind energy. As you can see the gap between the green line and peak demand in blue has increased exponentially in tandem with the building of new wind farms in yellow and new power stations in red. This gap is a large part of the reason why electricity bills have soared in recent years as the capital element of all of this capacity must be financed through bills regardless of how much energy they produce. So with all of this excess capacity, how is it that we are facing the prospect of blackouts? 

The red line is dispatchable plant, that is, plant that can be switched on at a moment's notice as required. The main ones in Ireland are gas, coal and oil power stations. The interconnector to England (EWIC) is also included in this however it's debatable how dispatchable this is in light of recent events (more on this later). Peat is also dispatchable but two of those power stations were closed down in 2020 leaving only one remaining peat station in Edenderry which also runs on biomass. It is due to be closed down in 2023. It has now finally being accepted by almost everyone (apart from the Green Party Energy Minister ?) that wind is not dispatchable and during long periods of low wind as we have had this year it is really the red line that we are relying on to keep the lights on.

The red line takes a noticeable dip after 2020. This is to take account of the loss of three power stations during 2021 - Huntstown 400MW, Whitegate 444MW and Tarbert 243MW. This has returned us to 2007 levels of dispatchable plant. This shouldn't present a serious problem, we managed okay back then. However, there are two main differences between now and back in the Tiger days :

1) Peak demand has increased by about 10%. The peak of 5,357MW was reached in December 2020. It is likely that this will increase further this winter which means the gap between the red and the blue line in Chart 1 will narrow even further. 

2) The rate of forced outages has increased dramatically in recent years. According to Eirgrid, the forced outage rate went from a low of about 3% in 2016 to a high of about 16% in 2021. The forced outage rate is the rate at which power stations are breaking down. Power stations are becoming less reliable and not just old ones. One reason for this is that they are switching on and off too much to balance the wind (more here) . 

The situation then is precarious enough but what happens if the UK does not have spare energy to give to us over the interconnector ? This has become a greater risk as energy shortages have recently become a major political issue in the UK. Chart 2 shows what happens when the EWIC is no longer available :

Chart 2

There is now a very small gap between the red and blue lines. 353MW to be exact. Which is about the size of a single power station. So another power station outage would leave us on the precipice and if the winter is a cold one demand will surely rise pushing us over the edge into blackout territory. 

To sum up here, it would take six events occurring at the same time to leave us in a very dangerous position - three of those are the three currently unavailable power stations not being repaired in time for winter, the fourth is the interconnector becoming useless, the fifth is either another power station breaking down or demand rising higher than last year. The trend for the fourth and fifth events is going the wrong way in all cases. The likelihood however of all 3 power stations not being repaired in time for winter is fairly slim although I have a feeling Whitegate may not be repaired by mid November as scheduled.

The sixth event is perhaps the biggest variable of all, the yellow line in the charts - wind energy. If there is plenty of it then in theory the majority of these events occurring simultaneously would not pose such a major problem. But if we have another lull as we have had this summer then that is a different story.

I say, in theory, because it is slightly more complicated than that. Certain power stations are required to be operating at all times to maintain the stability of the grid. Currently that includes Moneypoint coal power station. Moneypoint happens to be the oldest power station on the grid so there is a risk to the entire grid if it alone suffers an outage. No amount of wind energy can replace the inertia that Moneypoint provides to the system. 

In any event, the demand of large energy users will most likely be cut before we get near the precarious position of all or most of these events occurring together. 

Demand management they are calling it. Which is another form of blackout, just with a nicer name . 

Saturday 18 September 2021

Record Prices hit the Irish Electricity Market

 On Thursday the 9th September, prices in the All Ireland Electricity Market hit record highs of €4,680 per MWh, well over 20 times the normal price :

The scale here is from €0 to €5,000 MWh

What a normal day looks like, prices rise to about €150 MWh

These prices may have had something to do with the UK switching on coal plant that same week, the cost of which can be very high. Margins are set to get even tighter in the UK as this week one of the interconnectors to France went on fire causing wholesale prices to rise even higher there. Low outputs of wind energy have plagued both Ireland and the UK for many months now. In essence, high prices in the electricity market go hand in hand with low amounts of reliable generation.

There have been three Amber Alerts and seven Notifications of Tight Generation Margins issued this month in the Single Electricity Market (SEM). An Amber Alert means there was expected to be enough energy to meet demand, but possibly not enough in reserve should something go wrong. They can also be issued if there are significant frequency / voltage deviations which can happen when there aren't enough large power stations on the grid. The notification of Tight Generation Margins seems to be a prelude to an Amber Alert. 

System Alerts can go from Alert (Amber) to Emergency (Red) to Blackout (Blue) and finally to a Restoration state. Up to the end of August of this year there have been six system alerts on the grid. In the previous decade, they averaged just one per year.

Thursday 16 September 2021

Energy Regulator - Existing Generating Fleet has become less Reliable

The energy regulator, in a recent Oireachtas Committee meeting, explains that what this blog has consistently warned for many years would happen has now come to fruition - that power stations have become less reliable as a result of excessive ramping up and down to back up wind :

Coming into the past winter, winter 2020-21, we had our seasonal update with EirGrid. We have a winter outlook and a summer outlook. That involves EirGrid, ourselves and the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications. In this we identify short-term challenges. These included an uptick and increase in demand from a range of sectors, which would have included data centres and the economy recovering or starting to recover post Covid. Separately, we noticed a reduction in the reliability of the existing fleet. Some of those pieces of the fleet that are of medium to older age are being asked to turn up and turn down more frequently as they balance the wind. They are being asked to do things they were not designed for, so the reliability of some of the existing fleet has decreased a little.

This was something that was not factored in to any of the assessments of wind energy. But reality doesn't change by ignoring it. 

Sunday 12 September 2021

Lifespan of a Gas Turbine

 According to Siemens a gas turbine is designed to run for 40 years with maintenance every 3 years as this video explains:

The gas turbine in Whitegate power station was severely damaged last December when a small piece of metal broke loose and damaged the blades. The turbine was installed in 2010. So it is unusual that the turbine would be so severely damaged after just 10 years. 

Thursday 2 September 2021

Zero Carbon Here We Come


There has been much news lately about the prospect of blackouts during the winter most notably by the Sunday Business Post. Huntstown and Whitegate gas power stations are both out of action, as is Tarbert diesel power station. There is also uncertainty around Moneypoint coal power station and the East West Interconnector although at the moment Moneypoint is running flat out. Coupled with the extra demand from data centres this means that some form of blackouts or "load shedding" (cutting off certain parts of the country for short periods to balance supply and demand) is quite likely this winter. However, the situation is changing rapidly and the latest is that Huntstown and Whitegate will be repaired by October / November. My own gut feeling is that it may be an over reliance on the UK Interconnector that finally puts us in the dark. Yet another coal powered station has been demolished over there, Ferrybridge in Yorkshire, which at a capacity of 2000mw was possibly the largest power station in Europe. 

Anyone who has been following this blog will know that I have been predicting this situation for many years. Whitegate is only ten years old and is a modern combined cycle gas turbine (ccgt) station. It appears that the turbine has suffered serious damage from a tiny piece of metal that broke loose. It's difficult to attribute this to anything in particular but CCGT is the most efficient form of generation and there are concerns that operating them intermittently (to backup wind) will increase the wear and tear of the gas turbine. A bit like running your car in heavy traffic is less efficient than on a motorway. Huntstown has a problem with a transformer which could happen at any time. 

The bigger issue here is that wind energy, no matter how much is installed, cannot replace a power station. So we are left in the dark when things go wrong with traditional generation despite spending billions on them. We have a bloated electricity sector, one of the most costly in Europe, yet one that is prone to regular amber alerts. 

How did this happen? Quite simply, because of target based policies. Meeting targets is the only option on the menu. There is no room for good judgement and balanced decision making. It is rule by the target setting bureaucrat and the box ticker that has got us into this mess. 

Targets for biofuel means dead orangutans. 

Targets for agriculture means the destruction of the amazon.

Targets for heating means importing German peat briquettes. 

Targets for electricity means blackouts. 

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Ireland's Temperature Records shows Winter and Spring Cooling

 While there is much furore of late about global warming, the reality in Ireland is that during the first 5 months of the year there was actually much colder weather than average as can be seen in the temperature records from Met Eireann below. LTA here refers to the long term average for 1981 to 2010. It shows significant cooling in January and May, enough to cause a concern nationally but so far I haven't seen any. It shows the mistakes that can be made by solely relying on ipcc reports. In this case, the mistakes could be very costly for people's lives and impact on hospital admissions (a topical subject at the moment) . 

If Ireland's climate is becoming cooler then that means we will need more reliable heating sources and more reliable energy generators than other countries. However, our leaders are moving in the opposite direction with bans on fossil fuels. 

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