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'Amber alert' issued by Eirgrid as electricity system comes under pressure to meet demand

The warning came as Eirgrid are set to close two peat-fueled power plants in the Midlands.

Image: Eirgrid

national grid An Amber Alert was issued by Eirgrid as the electricity supply system came under pressure.

AN AMBER ALERT was declared this week by Eirgrid as the electrical supply system came under sustained pressure to meet a high demand.

The company wide internal warning was issued on Wednesday shortly after 5pm as record levels of energy consumption put the grid under threat.

Eirgrid, which manages the Irish electrical supply network, said there was a number of reasons for this including that the record for peak demand, set in 2010, was broken twice in the past week.

A spokesman explained that technical issues at major power generating plants reduced the output across the country.

“There were a number of reasons that gave rise to Wednesday’s alert. Firstly, two of the three units at Moneypoint, the country’s largest power station, suffered technical failures and were not available. This resulted in the loss of 570 megawatts of electricity.

“Generation at Whitegate power station in Cork totalling 450 megawatts was also unavailable due to technical issues. A 243 megawatt generator at Tarbert power station was called up but could not respond due to technical problems. 

“The electricity market was set up for Ireland to export renewable energy via the two interconnectors (EWIC in the South and Moyle in the North) linking Ireland and GB.

“Following the issuing of the amber alert we were able to reverse the flows on the Moyle Interconnector and on EWIC shortly after that. There was also a drop in wind generation greater than was forecast prior to the alert being issued.

“There was no loss of electricity during the alert which ended by 6.20pm on [Wednesday],” the spokesman explained.

The Eirgrid Group compile a Winter Outlook annual report which focuses on electricity demand and capacity from an all-island perspective.

The winter Outlook looks at the capacity margin, which is the excess generation used to meet peak demand in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It calculated that this figure would be 929MW. 

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The spokesman said that this takes into account the closure of the two peat plants in the Midlands.

“If the high generator forced outage rates that were experienced in the past year continue over the winter period, there is a risk of System Alerts, particularly when renewable generation is at a low output and support is not available from Great Britain across the interconnectors,” he said.

Eirgrid have also suffered problems around maintenance provision due to the Covid-19 pandemic as they were forced to postpone this work until later in the year. This was associated with specialist resources and materials coming from overseas.   

“As a result, there are outages of large generator units extending into December and also in January.

“Typically there would not be any outages of large generators in these months due to the higher load levels.

“According to the Winter Outlook the capacity margin would be at its tightest at the end of November and start of December,” the spokesman explained.

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