EirGrid to spark new life into all-island economy via smart grid

20 Oct 2011

EirGrid is looking into the bigger renewables picture as part of its smart grid plans for the island of Ireland

Ireland’s independent electricity transmission system operator EirGrid has set itself a target to help the economies on the island restore steady fiscal growth trajectories by delivering advanced power systems in both jurisdictions.

The group, which operates the transmission system in Ireland, and is the owner of the body (SONI) that operates the grid in Northern Ireland, is holding its annual conference in Dundalk today.

EirGrid group also includes the operator of the wholesale single electricity market (SEMO) across the island.

‘Delivering the Power System of Tomorrow’ – conference theme

Speaking in Dundalk today, group chief executive Dermot Byrne said EirGrid must be ready for future economic and energy scenarios, particularly in relation to connecting renewables to the grid, making it smarter overall. He also spoke about how a secure power supply is a key element of investment decision making for large demand customers.

“We must be ready. It is our job to anticipate growth and to ensure that we manage the power systems in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in co-operation with our partners, to ensure the infrastructure is in place for when the economy is fully out of recession,” he said.

“A secure power supply is a key element of the investment decision matrix for large demand customers,” he said, noting the importance of manufacturing in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Dermot Byrne CEO EirGrid
Dermot Byrne, CEO, EirGrid
Byrne then focused on wind energy, pointing out how there is about 1,900 megawatts of wind energy connected to the power system, on the island of Ireland.

More wind farms have already secured grid connection offers from EirGrid, but are waiting for planning permission from the Irish Government, or vice versa, so that is why we haven’t seen more wind farms being constructed of late.

Byrne said EirGrid’s and SONI’s analysis of the all-island power system, incorporating renewables, has attracted much global interest.

“EirGrid and System Operator Northern Ireland (SONI) have completed a comprehensive analysis of the long-term needs of the all-island power system with high levels of renewable energy and the challenges it presents. This work has attracted much interest internationally.”

US Secretary for Energy, Steven Chu, visited EirGrid in 2010

To emphasise the opportunity Ireland has, if it chooses to capitalise on its renewable resources, Bryne pointed out that the US Secretary for Energy, Steven Chu, visited EirGrid last year.

“As a percentage of system size, this level of renewable penetration places Ireland at the forefront of Europe. Ireland’s status as a world leader was reinforced last year when the US Secretary for Energy, Steven Chu, visited EirGrid, to see the major strides being made here.”

Byrne said in the Grid25 programme to upgrade the transmission network was a key strategy with benefits for Ireland, as well as for Northern Ireland.

“It will help provide a platform for renewed economic growth, enable balanced regional development and facilitate the utilisation of rich, renewable resources.

Adapting latest tech to lower Grid25 bill by €800m

“Grid25 strikes a balance between costs, reliability and the impact on the environment. We have reduced the expected costs of this investment by €800m to €3.2bn by, for example, adopting the latest technology that allows us to upgrade and carry more power on the existing network.”

In relation to developing the transmission system in Northern Ireland, SONI, part of EirGrid Group, has an important role, Byrne said.  
“SONI has played its part in the development of NIE’s strategic Network 25 programme. We fully support the proposals NIE are presenting to the regulator.”  

Today’s conference in Dundalk is being attended by delegates from across the electricity sector, including large users of electricity, generators, electricity suppliers, regulatory authorities and wind developers.

EirGrid’s directors are Dermot Byrne (chief executive), Bernie Gray (chairperson), Dr Gary Healy, Cormac MacDonnchadha, Martina Moloney, Regina Moran, Liam O’Halloran, Bride Rosney, Dr Joan Smyth and Richard Sterling.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic