Why Grid25 is madness and Biomass is a serious alternative to wind.

We at Wind Aware Ireland spent some time thinking about our name and identity. We liked ‘People before Profit’ but someone took it! We wanted to reflect our core beliefs and the fact that we are looking at the bigger picture issues of overall energy policy in Ireland and abroad. We are calling on government to rethink and evaluate its current flawed energy free for all (I’ll desist calling it a ‘policy’). So another really good name came up – ‘Rethink’….. again, it was taken!

Rethink Pylons are a similar organisation to our own who were galvanised by the proposed upgrade to the national grid via the Grid25 project. Like us, they too have come to realise that the whole energy strategy needs revision and independent analysis. As no such analysis was forthcoming from our glorious leaders, Rethink commissioned their own.

BW Energy is a specialised energy consultancy providing ‘strategic, financial, regulatory and policy advice in decarbonising energy markets.’ and comprises Dr. Anthony White and Malcolm Brown and their team. Dr. White is a physicist by trade and has over 35 years’ experience in the energy sector, working as an energy analyst for investment banks and as head of strategy for the British National Grid Group. He is actively involved in UK energy and power market policy participating in numerous UK Government advisory bodies.

Malcolm Brown has over twenty seven years’ experience of the energy sector and low carbon economy from capital markets analytical and strategy consulting roles at a senior level. His energy sector analytical roles in capital markets included, privatisation of the UK gas and power sectors.

BW Energy have so far produced two reports for Rethink- the ‘Grid Link project ‘Stage1’ Report’ published in September 2013 and the ‘Review of the Irish Government’s Strategy for Compliance with the European Directive 2009/28’ published in March 2014.

In the former, BW respond to Eirgrid’s ‘Stage 1 Report’ and highlights failings in this key justification of Grid25. They found that:
More wind power threatens to destabilise the entire network risking power ‘blackouts’. Connecting a large proportion of variable wind power to a relatively small, islanded network leads to increased risks of uncontrollable changes in frequency of the network. Because of a feedback mechanism in the grid, this may force the entire system to shut down leading to extended power ‘blackouts’.
An interconnector to the UK is necessary to manage Ireland’s own domestic variable wind energy. Rather than offering ‘development potential of a significant renewable energy export project’ this interconnector is needed to dump wind when there is too much and to avoid destabilising our own grid. Therefore, the unnecessary costs of the Grid25 transmission system upgrade of €3.2bn and an additional interconnector costing at least €0.6bn should be included in the total cost of Irish wind power.
Ireland along with other EU countries should prioritise more growth in renewables technologies that offer better value, do not risk destabilising the power network and that create domestic jobs.
Faster growth in biomass and combined heat and power plants and support for energy efficiency offer better value, do not risk destabilising the entire power network and create local employment.

BW believe that the consequences of the decision to accommodate ‘a large variable source of supply and the cost of managing the increased risks to the power network, were not made apparent when the wind strategy was adopted in 2009. Higher network risks can only be solved by a combination of upgrading the transmission network (Grid25 at €3.2 billion), building an additional interconnector (€0.6 billion) to the UK or France and constraining already paid for wind power (‘curtailment’ payments to wind farm operators). There is no evidence that these additional costs were systematically taken into account in 2009 when assessing the alternative strategies for meeting Ireland’s EU targets for 2020. ‘

The second report examines the possibilities of incorporating biomass into our electricity system. Conversion from coal to biomass at Moneypoint, Ireland’s largest power station, would meet 2020 targets at a single stroke – avoiding the need for additional expensive wind power and pylon infrastructure. The conversion of Moneypoint would make €3.8 billion of wind power related costs unnecessary. The €3.2 billion Grid25 project and €0.6 billion additional interconnector to stabilise the power network would no longer be required. Conversion of Moneypoint could meet the renewables targets at a tenth of the cost of upgrading the transmission system to accommodate additional wind.

In May, Dr. White presented his findings at an Engineers Ireland event. Present were SSE Airtricity, Eirgrid, SEAI and the IWEA. You can read about the inadequacy of these bodies’ responses to BW here

So to conclude, we say to the government, in concurrence with Rethink Pylons, ‘Rethink’!

By Paula Byrne