Threat of blackouts if power grid not upgraded

If the upgrade to the national electricity grid is not carried out, the country will face blackouts, Gridlink project manager John Lowry said yesterday.

Mr Lowry says changes in the electricity generation mix and increased use of wind energy means that, unless the grid is urgently upgraded there is a danger of the system collapsing.

His comments come on the same day that a report commissioned by Rethink Pylons argued that the €3.2bn grid upgrade could be avoided if Ireland does not “aggressively focus on wind”.

Consultants Anthony White and Malcolm Brown of BW Energy say plans to double wind-power output are the main driver behind the need to upgrade Ireland’s transmission network, including spending €400m on the controversial Grid Link project.

The anti-pylon group argued that to avoid this cost to taxpayers, the Government should redirect its renewable energy policy away from doubling wind capacity to more investment in biomass and energy efficiency.

Eirgrid has criticised the BW Energy report, however, saying it is “not accurate” to state that the grid upgrades are only needed for wind generation.

Speaking in Cork before the BW Energy report came out, Mr Lowry said: “The changes on system means that there is the potential for voltage collapse. There is the potential for blackout should we not invest in the infrastructure. It is as simple as that. This project is needed by 2020 — the longer we go without this infrastructure the greater the risk it presents to the system.”

He also suggested that customers may have to foot the bill for the lengthy planning consultation.

Meanwhile, BW Energy, which completed the report for Rethink Pylons, has called for the gradual conversion of the country’s largest power station, Moneypoint, from coal to biomass. It claims this would allow Ireland to meet its renewable energy targets “in one single stroke”.

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