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Ireland rues mistakes of the past as it struggles to keep the lights on

March 1, 2023

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby


Blimey, I did not see this coming!!



Back-up power generators have started to arrive in Ireland to help it keep the lights on during the next few winters.
The mobile turbines, described as “effectively jet engines”, are set to be installed in areas including Dublin and nearby County Meath.
The €350m (£308m) temporary capacity was ordered by environment minister Eamon Ryan last year as a “last resort”, after regulators flagged a looming shortfall in generation.
“This is an electricity emergency,” minister of state Ossian Smyth told its parliament in October.  
“It is a national scandal,” retorted Darren O’Rourke, the Teachta Dála for Meath East. 


Yet concerns about the future remain: in Ireland, surging demand for electricity and the closure of ageing gas-fired power stations have left the country vulnerable next winter and beyond.

Critics have also warned that Ireland is becoming too reliant on imports of gas, as domestic fossil fuel generation is sidelined in pursuit of green goals. 

The problems highlight the challenges of transitioning the energy system away from fossil fuels, while still maintaining security of supply.

Kathryn Porter, a consultant at energy analysts Watt-Logic, said: “I’m not sure [Ireland’s] sums [on energy supply and demand in Ireland] have been adding up.

“It echoes concerns that have been arising in other markets.”
Former top civil servant Dermot McCarthy has been asked to independently examine the circumstances behind the immediate squeeze, while the Government has also opened its own energy security review.
In October, politician Barry Cowen called for a fix to the “Cold War state of our energy infrastructure”, piling pressure on Leo Varadkar, the taoiseach, to find a more permanent solution to the problem of keeping the lights on long-term.
Ireland’s single electricity market covers both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
It trades electricity with Britain via two electricity cables from England, and imports gas via pipelines from Scotland.
It has evolved rapidly in recent years to
incorporate more wind power, as part of the global shift towards renewable energy: renewables accounted for 42pc of Ireland’s electricity mix in 2020, compared to just 7pc in 2005.

Demand for electricity has leapt over the same period, driven in part by the growing number of energy-hungry data centres set up in Dublin, attracted in part by low corporation tax rates.

This hunger for power is only set to grow as electric cars and heat pumps start to replace petrol cars and gas boilers.

Rising demand at a time of insecure supply has started to trigger alarm bells as to how well the system can manage. Problems were apparent even before the acute energy crisis of the last 12 months.
There were eight “system alerts” between January 2020 and September 2021, indicating tight power supplies.  
In September 2021,
Ireland had to block exports of electricity to Britain to preserve supplies on the island. That month, EirGrid, which operates its electricity grid, warned of a potential shortfall in coming years.

Its report predicted that about 1.6GW of generation would be retired in Ireland over the next five years and 600MW in Northern Ireland, as gas-fired power plants were phased out.

Gas-fired plants are getting old but are also being pushed off the system by the growth of wind power. However, wind is by its nature unpredictable.

“We expect system alerts to be a feature of the system over the coming winters and this winter is likely to be challenging,” Mark Foley, chief executive of EirGrid, said back in 2021.

New gas-fired generation would be needed to help fill in the gaps in intermittent wind and solar supplies, he said, calling for a “clear signal” for investors to build new plants.

Plans to cut national carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 do call for about 2GW of generation from new flexible, gas-fired power stations to help fill the gaps left by intermittent wind supplies.

Last February, the Government secured contracts for back-up power supplies from October 2024, which are expected to lead to 1.1MW of new gas-fired generation being built, as well as 120MW of battery storage.

However, supplies procured in this way are not as certain as many would like – some generators that had agreed to supply back-up for 2022/23 dropped out, piling pressure on the electricity network this winter.

It adds up to an uncertain picture for future electricity generation that has left industry and homeowners concerned. In November, the Irish Academy of Engineering claimed that a lack of government energy planning was deterring international investors.

“Irish energy supply reliability is below standard and is threatening to deteriorate further unless rapid practical action is taken,” it added.
The Irish Academy of Engineering has also raised concern about the security of gas supplies, which are needed for power stations as well as for heating and industrial uses.  
Around three-quarters of Ireland’s gas demand is met by imports from Britain, via Scotland, with the rest coming from its Corrib gas field, off the north-west coast of County Mayo.

The Irish government is no longer issuing new gas exploration licences, as part of a move away from oil and gas to cut carbon emissions. Existing licence-holders can continue to apply for extensions to keep a well in production. However, the situation leaves Ireland increasingly reliant on imports.

The UK’s exit from the EU means it no longer has to supply Ireland under the EU’s “solidarity” rule, meaning that, in theory, supplies to Ireland could be restricted if the UK was facing shortages of its own.

Gas supply shortages had been feared this winter after Russia cut off supplies to Europe following its invasion of Ukraine.

As Ireland confronts challenges on the supply side, politicians and regulators have been looking at ways to manage demand.
Data centres must now “deliver strong economic benefits” and be willing to promote Ireland’s “national decarbonisation objectives", the government has said.

The Ireland grid still depends on gas and coal for two thirds of its power, along with 15% from GB interconnectors.  The island is particularly vulnerable because it cannot tap into European supply.


The idea that they can rely primarily on renewables is ridiculous. As with the UK, it makes you wonder whoever thought that they could.

Yet the official Irish government plan still wants 80% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2030:


  1. Mr Robert Christopher permalink
    March 1, 2023 9:38 am

    They’ll have to build more windmills, won’t they.

    • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
      March 1, 2023 9:48 am

      In the late 1980s, I flew into Dublin airport and, looking through the passenger window, I could see a large power station, probably coal-fired, on the coast.
      Later, I asked the taxi driver what sort of power station it was, and he replied that it was an Electricity Power Station.

      They could do with a few of those as well.

  2. wf34 permalink
    March 1, 2023 9:55 am

    Amazon Web Services knows what’s coming

    105 generators is probably 0.21GW. Moreover, I know the estate and in order to install this they will either have to decom DC space or take other tenants space. The joke in Dublin is that a garden shed in Dublin with a decent power supply will get an offer from AWS within the week 🙂

    • kzbkzb permalink
      March 1, 2023 11:16 am

      The low tax rate in ROI attracts a lot of power hungry Cloud servers. My guess is the constant 24/7 demand from these is driving this problem.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        March 1, 2023 12:22 pm

        And a lot of that demand is probably being used for BitCoin “Mining”. Funny that our government is talking about moving to CBDC which will need even more processing capacity than the largely online systems we already have…

      • March 2, 2023 10:13 am

        I’m still surprised new server farms are going to Ireland as I would have thought Iceland (being in the single market too) would have capitalised on this with it abundant hydro & geothermal resources (read cheap electricity in the long term) especially with added benefit to virtue signalling (since most the electricity in Ireland come from fossil fuels) & I suspect especially after what’s happened to electricity prices in Norway I suspect Iceland wouldn’t be having any interconnector build even if they were technically feasible

      • kzbkzb permalink
        March 2, 2023 12:30 pm

        All those cat videos and photos of restaurant meals, using power for the rest of eternity. Money well spent.

  3. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 1, 2023 10:00 am

    There was me advocating for some community somewhere to fully embrace the NZC nonsense and see how the get on. Step forward RoI. well done!

  4. March 1, 2023 10:11 am

    There’s nothing better than gas turbines as a sticking plaster to aid a dying electricity system; and of course, to increase emissions.

    And of course the Irish know all about how wind farms cause massive damage to peat bogs:

    • Ian Wilson permalink
      March 1, 2023 11:04 am

      At one time the UK had some standby gas turbine power stations to handle the peaks. They had eight Rolls-Royce Avons per site. What happened to them? Were they scrapped and why? The engines can hardly have been worn out as Avons used on gas pumping in Canada have run for over 50 years and are predicted to be good for another 25.

      • Thomas Carr permalink
        March 1, 2023 11:54 am

        Norwich had a gas turbine station built next to the site of the original coal fired sta. Said to have been for standby only as fuel was so expensive at that time.
        Some power stations were built , commissioned, kept on a care and maintenance basis but seldom used and subsequently demolished – there was one at Inverkip on the Clyde. The price of oil even delivered by sea was fatal to its future.

      • March 2, 2023 9:58 am

        I do wonder if anyone could be held accountable for criminal negligence or misconduct in a public office for allowing the oil power stations that were completed after the 1973 oil crisis for strategic purposes (although some were probably completed for political/job creation purposes) for not agreeing an exemption from the Large Combustion Plant Directive for large strategic power station with low operating hours.

        Since British history would be very different if we didn’t have them during the 1984/5 miners strike & the great storm of November 1987.

        Littlebrook D and probably Grain were clearly built for national security reasons so never should have being privatised in a competitive market which rewards scarcity. Why keep hardly used plant that cost money to maintain when you would make more money closing it – that’s why I suspect some of the coal units were demolished so quickly & cannibalize/assist striped for parts e.g. I believe parts e.g. transformers from Didcot A were sent to Germany to be used in a new power station.

        Why they were allowed to close without a like for like replace with on site fuel storage or required to meet the Large Combustion Plant Directive is another issue in need of a public inquiry.

        I’m amazed this wasn’t noticed with the economic issue the privatisation of the SSEB without the nuclear power station which generated 60%+ of the electricity used in Scotland at the time exposed would have for a private company with just the SSEB’s coal power stations let alone let alone what to do with Inverkip.

  5. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 1, 2023 10:19 am

    “What most homeowners want right now, more than anything else, is lower energy bills. Decarbonising the country’s electricity system by 2035 is of secondary importance.”

    • Russ Wood permalink
      March 4, 2023 9:46 am

      What South African homeowners want right now is simply POWER. Inadequate coal power stations, badly maintained. Insufficient geography for much in the way of pumped storage (oh yes, and a drought will dry up the water supply). Too much tax money in the generation system being simply STOLEN. So, 4-6 hours of “load shedding” every day with more promised. Only a few places, on the Cape coast, far from the main users, are suitable for wind turbines. We DO have a nuclear station, that needs refurbishing, but a civil serpent stuff-up in signing a nuclear non-proliferation treaty may mean that SA can’t buy nuclear fuel for it!
      Still, it’s summer and the public swimming pools are open. Braai (barbecue) fires are being lit every weekend.

  6. March 1, 2023 10:22 am

    They should re-open some collieries in the West.

  7. March 1, 2023 11:23 am

    “New gas-fired generation would be needed to help fill in the gaps in intermittent wind and solar supplies, he said, calling for a “clear signal” for investors to build new plants.”

    Clearly those in charge worry only about “carbon”, because they would not sleep at night if they owned the real problem, that security of supply relies on giving “signals” to (now mythical) “investors”.

    • gezza1298 permalink
      March 1, 2023 11:29 am

      I suspect that there isn’t a ‘clear signal’ to investors that they will make any return on their investment.

    • Mewswithaview permalink
      March 1, 2023 12:47 pm

      Back in 2018 Viridian nearly pulled the plug

      Viridian request to shut north Dublin plant early is declined by energy regulator

      The Huntstown operation has the capacity to supply up to 20% of Ireland’s electricity needs.

      The regulators are fully aware Ireland is entirely dependent on gas and immediately caved in to Viridian.

  8. Mewswithaview permalink
    March 1, 2023 11:40 am

    The political class in Ireland has to walk a fine line between the wants of their constituents, the needs of the multinational corporations (MNCs) and the diktats from the EU. Without the tax revenue from the MNCs tax optimisation, the Irish governments persistent structural deficit is exposed. Some governments across the EU (especially France) would like to shutdown all such tax loopholes and will use EU institutions as their instrument to do this. The EU (ECB) is useful to keep interest rates lower than they would otherwise be in the process creating bubbles. Mario Draghis ECB quantitative sleezing in the aftermath of the 2008 crash saved the Irish political class and prevented much needed reform, it bought up lots of Irish government issued sovereign debt and allowed the citizens of the country to ride out the covid lockdowns.

    The problem is the political class and their establishment media flunkies have adopted outside political agendas that their constituents on the whole do not vote for. Constituents silence is bought via the welfare state since most private sector workers are dependent on the state pension when they retire.

    The unhappiness with the political class translates into decreased voter participation and leaves many potential voters (myself included) disenfranchised. I would vote “none of the above” if it were an option on the ballot paper. The consequence in a proportional representation single transfer (PR-STV) vote system is that minor parties and independent TDs (UK MPs) get elected on those transfers and go on to play a kingmaker role in coalition governments. In the last general election more of the sub-urban working class population switched to Sinn Fein (politics: national woke socialist), chiefly to express their dissatisfaction with establishment parties like Fianna Fail and Fine Gael (both of which are left and right of center populist parties). The old labour party (unions) vote has more or less dissolved with the actual workers going to Sinn Fein and the middle class univesity educated woke crowd going to boutique parties like the Social Democrats and Greens. At the fringes rural constituencies tend to transfer their votes to independent TDs. At the fringe urban constituencies tend to vote for Marxist socialist parties. Sinn Fein could have taken more seats in 2020 to become the largest political party but they did not field enough candidates. The political and media establishment in Ireland deplore Sinn Fein and will do everything (legal) to keep them out of power.

    That is the background context to how the current ruling coalition (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Green party) came to power in 2020.
    The minister for Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, and Transport is the Green party leader.

    RTE (wannabe BBC imitator) is the state broadcaster that is heavily bailed out by the taxpayer and it heavily pushes the woke agenda (DEI) and climate change. The head of RTE news even apologised on twitter for not carrying enough climate change propaganda news. Mainstream media simply retypes press releases from the environmental NGOs and business lobby groups such as Wind Energy Ireland.

    The only opposition to climate change policies comes from 10 independent rural TDs, the remaining politicians are entirely sold on the climate change agenda and will tolerate no opposition. The current situation has not happened overnight, it has been building over the past two decades.

    The Green twit has blocked exploration and recovery of oil and gas off the Irish coast, blocked the construction of LNG storage meaning Ireland has no gas storage buffer when Britain declares a gas emergency and cuts supplies via the Moffat line from Scotland. The state regulator for utilities (CRU) has warned the minister, the state electricity grid manager (Eirgrid) has warned it cannot guarantee power, and the state transmission operator (ESB) is installing a synchronous condenser while preparing to phase out reserve power generation. It also has to take down a wind turbine installation site that it built in contravention of planning laws.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      March 4, 2023 9:50 am

      Well, you Brits should have followed up that your ‘Brexit’ was actually completed. Your neighbour’s situation is EXACTLY what the ‘leave’ bunch were warning about! If you can’t control your own country, just WHY would you NEED politicians?

    • March 5, 2023 12:08 am

      “The consequence in a proportional representation single transfer (PR-STV) vote system is that minor parties and independent TDs (UK MPs) get elected on those transfers and go on to play a kingmaker role in coalition governments”

      Please think of the positives of STV vs the mess of Additional member system e.g. Germany and Scotland where you overrepresent urban areas and you have a realistic chance of having independent TDs unlike FPTP and it harder for a political parties to parachute in candidates as its easier to get rid of obnoxious TDs/MPs as you have multiple candidates from the same party.

      Things could really change in Ireland if there was a pact of independent TDs as I suspect Sinn Fein fill a populist vacuum an another group could quick push them aside/ fill and take their voter if it have a rational energy & food policy with people who have real world knowledge e.g. (Retired) ESB engineers (I suspect their opinion will be listened to more than civil servants & politicians if there are rolling blackout especially when you have the peat power stations that were closed for political reasons, the planned closure of Moneypoint without replacement, a interconnector with France with its own supply issue and the people who claim to believe climate change is an existential threat and in science typically oppose the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels nuclear fission and push 100% renewable which you could easily tell are unworkable with current storage technology) & farmers (highlighting how ill informed at best/ middle class white supremacy at worse ( that is what Malthusianism is) the anti fossil fuel types are to how food production works and if they got there way it would led to a famine as we couldn’t feed 1/2 of the world population) run as independent TDs .

      • Mewswithaview permalink
        March 5, 2023 10:22 am

        Don Moore (Ex ESB) does get some media time, Politicians publicly are still pushing generation powered by hopium.

        EUROPE’S ENERGY CRISIS Implications for Ireland

        Click to access IAE_Energy_Crisis_2022.pdf

        In the longer term, post 2030, many new technologies are likely to greatly facilitate the decarbonisation effort.
        But it must be realised that technological solutions such as economic long-term battery storage, hydrogen production or even small modular nuclear reactors, all of which hold out much promise, will not be ready for deployment at any meaningful scale prior to 2030.

        Hydrogen storage in pressure vessels is impractical in any significant quantity, for technical reasons. Salt cavern storage is the only proven technology for the large-scale storage of gaseous hydrogen. As indicated earlier, Ireland has very limited suitable salt formations, compared with Continental European countries and Great Britain

        The high cost of renewable electricity generation in Ireland when compared to countries with predictable renewable resources, and substantially lower renewable electricity costs, makes hydrogen liquefaction for export, with its very high energy requirement, commercially unattractive here, irrespective of the scale of the potential resource

  9. March 1, 2023 12:00 pm

    You can tell folks the consequences until the cows come home, but they pay absolutely no attention. Personal experience is a great teacher.

  10. Dave Ward permalink
    March 1, 2023 12:26 pm

    IIRC the standby power station in Norwich ran on heavy fuel oil not gas. It was easy to tell when it was running by the smoke billowing from the chimney!

  11. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 1, 2023 1:10 pm

    “The mobile turbines, described as “effectively jet engines”,” There is nothing new in that at all. Many large power stations had modified aero engines operating as OCGT usually to enable “Black Start”.
    Littlebrook D (Dartford) had 3 Rolls Royce Olympus Jet Engines – modified forms of Concorde engines.
    Here is one of the latest incarnations from GE
    The obvious advantage is that just like coal you can readily stockpile oil. Many (myself included) have been warning/expecting it to come to this to keep the lights on simply because it is by far the fastest way to build capacity.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      March 1, 2023 1:22 pm

      I briefly worked at one of the 3 sites which brought gas from the North Sea into Bacton, Norfolk. As well as multiple battery /UPS’s for critical control systems, and a substantial diesel genset, they also had a RR Avon driving (from memory) a 3.75MW generator, which would run the whole site. I don’t suppose the cost or availability of fuel (let alone CO2 emissions) was much of a consideration 25 odd years ago…

    • teaef permalink
      March 1, 2023 7:23 pm

      Think Buildwas power station, now demolished, had a couple of those as well.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 1, 2023 1:42 pm

    If you read the All-Island Ten-Year Transmission Forecast Statement 2021 there would be few surprises. They talk of short term capacity shortages. Then there’s this:

    Currently, through our Shaping Our Electricity Future Roadmap, we have a plan to deliver at least 70% renewable electricity for the all-island power system. For this GCS 2022-2031, our forecast of renewable generation is aligned to 70% renewable electricity by 2030 for the median demand. Achieving 80% renewable electricity will require a seismic shift in thinking, as the scale of the task is unprecedented and there are significant challenges in terms of deliverability, technical scarcities and economic considerations.

    That’s a move from litotes to panic, and a big warning to politicians about potential infeasibility and massive (unaffordable?) cost. That’s just for 80%. I think net zero truly scares them – as it should.

    • dearieme permalink
      March 1, 2023 3:37 pm

      “Achieving 80% renewable electricity will require a seismic shift in thinking …”

      We are run by dullards and utter fools. And ours don’t even have the excuse of being geriatrics.

  13. March 1, 2023 5:40 pm

    People who could not figure out that the only guaranteed output from wind and solar is zero, should be nowhere near government. Put another way, all wind and solar need min. 100% backup as part of the initial installation, paid for by the renewables supplier.

  14. Jordan permalink
    March 2, 2023 12:23 am

    “The idea that they can rely primarily on renewables is ridiculous. As with the UK, it makes you wonder whoever thought that they could.”

    MaREI was one organisation who put their name to this:

    Click to access Our-Climate-Neutral-Future-Zero-by-50-Skillnet-Report-March-2021-Final-2.pdf

    (MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine,University College Cork)

    I wonder if they will update their models, as they watch the emergency generators land at the docks.

  15. Vernon E permalink
    March 2, 2023 11:53 am

    Rachel Millard published the same article in the “paper” editoion of the DT under the heading “Ireland’s Energy Crisis Threatens Blackouts”. I immediatlely wrote to the editor pointing out that she completely failed to mention the powerful Ireland Alternative Fuel Obligation which compels all G/T generators to provide to store (5 days) and burn liquid fuel in emergencies. There are about 25 such generators and 13 are equipped to burn light distillate. My letter, needless to say, was not published. Whether there is enough G/T capacity to meet needs is an open question that applies also to the UK but we aren’t as smart as our Irish friends and haven’t even addressed the alrternative fuel issue.

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