Bord Gáis has told Gript that Whitegate Power Station, a 445MW gas-fired power plant which markets had previously been told was scheduled to come back online on Monday, has yet to come online. No reasons for the delay have been given.
Acrroding to Bord Gáis Whitegate, which was classed as the most efficient power station in Ireland before it underwent a forcible shutdown in December of 2020 after a technical fault was detected, can, when fully operation, “power up to 400,000 homes.”
The plant was originally scheduled to reopen in June of 2021, but the company later confirmed that it would be January of 2022 before reopening was possible. That date was later moved back to Thursday the 4th of November, before being moved forward again to Monday, the 15th of November. When that date was missed Bord Gáis told Gript that the plant would reopen on Tuesday, the 16th of November. Earlier today Bord Gáis told Gript the plant will reopen tomorrow, the 17th of November.
Amber alerts, which indicate that the available buffer between the demand for and supply of electrical power is below optimal levels, have become an increasingly common part of the Irish electrical market in the last two years, with nine issued since January 2020. That compares to 13 in the decade previous.
Eamon Ryan has said that he is “increasingly confident” that Ireland will not experience blackouts this winter but the timely reopening of Whitegate is seen as integral to ensuring that is the case.
A planned backup, which would have seen the purchase of 200MW of emergency generation at an estimated cost of over €100 million, was scrapped after a legal challenge was brought against the awarding of the contract to the ESB. Deputy Barry Cowen, speaking in the Dáil, said that the process “could not subsequently be defended in the courts and was, therefore, withdrawn.”
Deputy Cowen said that he had become aware that “EirGrid is now running a new tender process that has a strong bias towards the ESB North Wall site. I have learned that the technical criteria and timelines swing very much in favour of the ESB.” He cited the “suggestion by EirGrid” that fast-tracked planning should be considered to ensure the successful delivery of the project as an example of this favouritism, as “this fast-track process….only appears to be available to the ESB.”
Deputy Cowen furthermore said that the ESB had “shut down the West Offaly power station and the Lough Ree power station in the midlands, removing 228 MW of generation capacity. This makes for a total of 628 MW. When the ESB’s media spin is filtered out, one can see that it has abandoned the midlands, having profited from the region for decades.”
Deputy Cowen asked Ossian Smyth, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, “Will the Minister of State please explain why the ESB, a semi-State company, is being rewarded handsomely despite exacerbating the supply shortage? Could the ESB have orchestrated this crisis by exercising its market power knowing that it would be rewarded as I have outlined?”