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Irish electricity market oversupplied for next decade - TSOs

21 Jan 2013 18:06:46 | edem

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The island of Ireland will have a "considerable electricity generation surplus" over the next decade, according to the two countries' transmission system operators (TSOs) on Monday, although current electricity prices in the Republic of Ireland do not make a case for exporting to the UK.

The Republic's TSO, EirGrid, and its Northern Ireland counterpart, SONI, revealed the forecast in their joint 10-year capacity statement.

The island as a whole has 9.7GW of installed conventional capacity now, falling to 9.5GW by 2017 as oil-fired plants come off line. The TSOs predict a surplus of some 2GW or more until 2017, but the surplus will decline to about 700MW in 2022, when conventional installed capacity is expected to fall to 8.5GW.

EirGrid is assuming that some plant will shut down and not all the planned plant will be commissioned, while no new conventional generation is planned for Northern Ireland over the next 10 years.

In addition, the governments of both countries have set a target of 40% of electricity consumed to be produced from renewable sources by 2020 in their jurisdictions. This should see 3.5-4GW of wind capacity installed in the Republic and 2.2GW of renewable capacity in Northern Ireland by 2020, the TSOs said. Just over 2GW of wind capacity is installed on the island now, with the Republic accounting for the bulk of this, at 1.6GW.

Export issues

Ireland's ability to export its surplus power is currently hampered by the difference between electricity prices in Ireland's all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM) and the UK market. The latest monthly session of Ireland's over-the-counter market highlighted this, with April '13 Baseload in Ireland priced using a trade-weighted average nearly €15.00/MWh above its UK equivalent at the time - a wider spread than seen in recent sessions (see EDEM 17 January 2012).

Problems with interconnection also present hurdles to exports. The 500MW Moyle interconnector linking Northern Ireland and Scotland is operating at half capacity, with no date scheduled for a return to its nameplate capacity (see EDEM 11 January 2013). Its operator Mutual Energy is considering potentially replacing one of the 250MW cables because of its chronic breakdowns.

The new 500MW East-West cable linking Dublin with Wales only started operating in late December after technical issues delayed its start (see EDEM 21 December 2012).

Ireland is considering building additional wind capacity, although this is specifically to export to the UK market, with a formal memorandum of understanding between the Dublin and London governments expected sometime this year (see EDEM 21 June 2012).

Northern crunch

While the island will have a surplus, the gap between power supply and demand in Northern Ireland will be tight from 2016 because of a lack of lines linking the north and south. A prolonged outage on the 500MW Moyle interconnector or at a major generation plant could cause problems, the TSOs said. Moyle's capacity is only forecast to be 250MW because of its operational troubles (see EDEM 11 January 2013).

An additional north-south tie line linking the two countries is slated to be operational in 2017, which would ease the possible strain in Northern Ireland. Once the link is in place, the combined systems can be assessed as a single system, the TSOs said. FOR

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