Seven 'amber alerts' on national electricity grid spark supply fears 

Seven 'amber alerts' on national electricity grid spark supply fears 

EirGrid said that between 2010 and 2019, there were 13 system alerts in Ireland, which compares to more than 500 such alerts in the previous decade, 2000 to 2009.

The government has been urged to give the full picture on whether the electricity grid can handle energy capacity over the winter, after what has been described as "deeply concerning" system alerts over the past year.

Labour TD for Cork East, Seán Sherlock, said the Government must outline whether there is a contingency plan in the event of blackouts and brownouts, after obtaining data showing seven system alerts, previously known as amber alerts, over the past 12 months, the latest on October 28 this year.

The system alerts occurred on December 9 last year, January 6, April 13, May 17, September 6 and 9, and October 28, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Sherlock.

"EirGrid notified my Department of each of these system alerts on the day they occurred. There have been no system emergencies (previously known as red alerts) on the system in Ireland in the past 12 months or in recent years," Mr Ryan said. 

"The system alert on April 13 related to the temporary failure of some of the systems in EirGrid's control centre. This failure occurred during the testing of backup systems and was quickly resolved. The other six system alerts were due to reduced margin between the level of electricity generation and demand," Mr Ryan said.

The ability of the grid to cope with increased demand has come under the spotlight in recent months, sparking a major debate about Ireland's current capability to handle the vast quantities of electricity needed for the burgeoning data centre industry in the country.

Senior research fellow in clean energy futures at the UCC-based MaREI centre for energy, climate and marine research, Dr Paul Deane, said the reliability of the power system is a source of continued concern. 

However, he added: "While we expect to see more amber alerts in the upcoming weeks and months, the system should be adequate to meet our needs this winter."

This week, the expected return of full commercial operation of Whitegate Power Station in Cork will relieve stress on the system, he said.

Mr Deane said:

Eirgrid has previously noted in their winter outlook that November this year and March next year will be particularly challenging for the power system in terms of available capacity and we would expect to see more amber alters in these months during periods of low wind speed generation and low availability of imports of power.

Mr Sherlock said the public deserves to know whether there is the proper security of energy supply at all times. 

"We need to see the full picture of the State's capacity to deliver energy supply this winter. Government must be honest on whether there is a contingency plan in the event of blackouts and brownouts," he added.

EirGrid said that between 2010 and 2019, there were 13 system alerts in Ireland.

"During the previous decade, 2000 to 2009, there were in excess of 500 such alerts, so this is not a new phenomenon," a spokesman said.

In the short term, EirGrid is closely monitoring the situation and working with conventional generators to ensure that plant performance and availability is maximised, he said.

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