The interconnected power systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland form a single synchronous power system and all electricity generated on the island is traded in the Single Electricity Market (SEM), the wholesale electricity market for the island of Ireland, regulated jointly by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and its counterpart in Belfast, the Utility Regulator (UR). The Irish system is not physically connected to the synchronous system of continental Europe. It is connected to electricity system of Great Britain system via two Direct Current (DC) interconnectors, the Moyle Interconnector and the East-West Electricity Interconnector (EWIC).
The Moyle subsea Interconnector links the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and Scotland. It went into commercial operation in 2002 and has a capacity of 500 Mega Watts (MW). EWIC links the electricity grids of Ireland and Great Britain. It has a capacity of 500 MW, and therefore doubled Ireland and Northern Ireland’s electricity interconnection with Great Britain when it went live in 2012. The two interconnectors allow market participants to trade electricity between the SEM on the island of Ireland and the British Electricity Trading and Transmission Arrangements (BETTA) market in Great Britain. EWIC’s increasing of this island’s interconnector capacity greatly enhances our ability to trade electricity with our neighbours and accelerates the integration of Ireland with other electricity systems.
Further interconnection across the entirety of the European Union is necessary to achieve the goal of completing the Internal Market for Energy in Europe. The European Commission estimates that, by 2020, around €200 billion will be needed for the construction of gas pipelines and electricity grids, of which €140 billion will be required for high-voltage electricity transmission systems, storage and smart grid applications.
At the European Council of 22nd May last, it was noted that significant investments in new and intelligent energy infrastructure are needed to secure the uninterrupted supply of energy at affordable prices and that the financing for such investments should primarily come from the market. All stakeholders in the European energy system, including governments, regulators, energy industry and energy consumers, as well as the Europe Union’s institutions such as the Commission, have parts to play in ensuring the required investment is achieved.
In this context, the implementation of EU Regulation 347/2013 on Guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, known as the Energy Infrastructure Package, should assist in securing that investment. The Regulation gives priority to twelve strategic trans-European energy corridors and areas. It provides for the identification of projects of common interest necessary to implement them.
The Commission will adopt the first Union-wide list of projects of common interest on the basis of the regional lists by 30 September 2013. Subsequently, the Union list will be drawn up every two years. Irish project promoters have a number of candidate projects on the list. Some of them, if developed and implemented, will further facilitate increased cross-border electricity interconnection and integration of the Irish grid with the rest of the EU.