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No immediate risk of blackouts as two system alerts issued by EirGrid in last 24 hours

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the Government was acting to prevent blackouts from occurring this winter.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Aug 10th 2022, 3:33 PM

TWO SYSTEM ALERTS for the Irish electricity grid have been issued in the last 24 hours, with EirGrid saying that the electricity system is “experiencing tight margins” this morning.

According to the grid operator, the system alert (Amber alert) is due to low wind energy generation, limited electricity imports and some forced outages at multiple generators.

It comes amid rising concerns for Irish electricity supplies, with EirGrid previously warning in a major report that there may be electricity shortages over the next five winters.

The Journal also reported that two emergency gas generators, which were originally slated to open before this winter, have been pushed back by 15 months.

The plants were intended to address the electricity shortfall and will add an additional 210 megawatts of power to the grid.

While two alerts have been issued, there is no immediate risk of blackouts in Ireland according to Dr Muireann Lynch, senior research officer with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

“The type of alert that has been issued today, what it means is it’s not that there’s any danger of demand necessarily exceeding supply,” Lynch said, speaking to RTÉ Radio One this morning.

“What it’s saying is, we like to have a certain amount of a buffer,” she added, saying that the current buffer is not as high as EirGrid would like it to be.

“So we’re not yet at the point where we’re kind of anticipating blackouts or anything, but what we’re saying is, our reserve levels are not as high as we’d like.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, speaking to reporters this afternoon, said that the Government was acting to prevent blackouts from occurring.

“I just want to assure people that the government is doing everything we can to make sure that we don’t face brownouts or blackouts this winter,” Varadkar said.

“We managed to avoid that happening last winter, we want to make sure that we avoid that happening this winter as well.”

Varadkar said that the Government was not “complacent” on the issue and that they have additional electricity generation capacity on the way.

EirGrid itself says that a system alert is “not an unusual event”, however the operator says that they are more likely to occur “in the winter months when demand for electricity is at its highest”.

According to Eirgrid, these alerts will allow for their engineers and the wider electricity sector to take actions to “protect the integrity of the grid”. 

However, a so-called system emergency (red alert) is more serious and is only issued when EirGrid believes there is a “high risk” that not all electricity demand will be met by the grid.

When a system emergency is issued, EirGrid will work with the ESB to take action to protect the grid’s integrity. This might include actions like controlled outages or temporarily reducing electricity supply for some users.

These controlled outages would include both businesses and residential areas, particularly any large energy users. EirGrid says that if a controlled outage is issued, it will attempt to make them as short as possible.

EirGrid says that a controlled outage is different than a blackout, which is when there are widespread outages that spread in an uncontrolled manner.

According to EirGrid, Ireland is likely to see additional alerts over the year due to the heightened demand for energy.

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Tadgh McNally

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