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Electricity Generation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (32)

David Stanton


32. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps being taken by his Department to ensure security of electricity supply this winter and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61273/21]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Environment)

I ask the Minister of State the steps that are being taken by his Department to ensure security of electricity supply this winter and beyond, given the fact that there was a danger of brownouts and blackouts earlier this year.

The CRU has statutory responsibility to ensure security of electricity supply. This includes the duty to monitor security of electricity supply and to take such measures as it considers necessary to protect security of supply. The CRU is assisted in its statutory role by EirGrid. The challenges to security of electricity supply are set out in EirGrid's All-Island Generation Capacity Statement 2021-2030 and Winter Outlook 2021-22, which were published in September and October, respectively.

In September, the CRU published an information note, setting out the programme of actions they are leading in order to address these challenges. These actions include increasing the availability of existing generators; developing new generation capacity, including temporary generation capacity in advance of winter 2022; extending the operational life of some existing generators; and actions to enhance demand-side response, including large consumers reducing demand when the system margin is low. Last month, the Government approved and published a new policy statement on electricity security of supply, which supports the CRU's programme of actions. My Department continues to work closely with the CRU and EirGrid to implement the programme of actions and ensure security of electricity supply.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. On a calm winter's day like today, what is the typical electricity demand? On a day like today, when there is very little wind and it is cold, how much of that is produced by renewables, and how much is produced by the thermal suite of coal, oil and gas?

On the question of the current demand for electricity on a day like today, I do not believe that the demand for electricity alters with the wind. The typical energy peak demand is something like 6 GW or 7 GW. On a day when there is no wind, we are faced with challenges, because a lot of our energy comes from wind. We could get as little as 0% on a day when there is no wind. We also get renewable energy from other sources. For example, we have hydropower and so on. We get as much as 75% of our energy from wind on a windy day. We are transitioning to a completely different energy system from what we had before, which was based on baseload and adding to that. We are moving away from that towards peaking power plants to balance dips in the power supply. It comes back to Deputy Bríd Smith's question about why we are adding 2 GW of additional wind power over the next ten years.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. If the demand is 6 GW per day, what is the supply? Is the supply matching that? What amount over and above that 6 GW is available? Does the Minister of State agree with me that the cutting-edge way to store wind energy is through the use of green hydrogen? How close are we to seeing the production and availability of green hydrogen become a reality?

Whitegate is one of the power plants that was shut down, which, as I understand it, contributed to some of the difficulties relating to the supply of electricity. Further delays in the return to operation have been reported in the past number of weeks. Has testing started at Whitegate? When might the plant be back up and running?

I am really pleased to hear the Minister of State confirm that we have secure electricity supplies. It was not long ago that we heard the leader of the Opposition predict that the Government would not be able to keep the lights on this winter. Scaremongering like that can have a profound impact, especially when it happens in this Chamber. I am pleased to hear the Minister of State confirm that there are no planned blackouts and we are not preparing for that.

On the question of what we are using for power on a day when there is no wind, principally, we are using gas.

We also have coal from Moneypoint when it is functioning. We also have cables connecting us to the UK which provide us with electricity. We are building what is called the Celtic interconnector, which will be a connection directly to France that will provide us with an additional 700 MW. These interconnectors are huge. Each one is equivalent to a large power station.

With regard to whether green hydrogen is something for the future, it is, and the second half of the decade is when it is likely to be commercially viable. I hope it will be a way of storing wind power. We will be allowed to inject it into the gas grid and reuse it in this way.

Deputy O'Rourke asked about Whitegate. Whitegate and Huntstown power stations produce approximately 400 MW. They help with our security of supply. Huntstown came back on stream, while Whitegate did not come back on stream as fast as was hoped. There were a number of tests. I do not know whether Whitegate is on stream right now. I have not heard that it is. I can get back to the Deputy on that.