Robust electricity system required to handle surge in demand

On the 28th of March the Irish Examiner featured the report Zero e-Mission Future from MaREI researchers Paul Deane and Laura Mehigan in conjunction with the Electricity Association of Ireland in the article Data centres: Are they unwanted but necessary guests in our landscape?

One thing everyone agrees on is that Ireland’s electricity system will have to become more robust to handle the surge in demand over the coming decades, as well as reducing emissions.

Powering data centres is merely one part of the jigsaw, according to a report from experts at Cork-based MaREI — SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research, in conjunction with the Electricity Association of Ireland.

Laura Mehigan and Dr Paul Deane, in their summary, state that a decarbonised, all-island electricity system is key to achieving climate ambition on the island of Ireland.

“This study takes a closer look at the future all-island power system through the lens of decarbonisation by focusing on the year 2030, where over 70% of the annual electricity on the system will be renewable.

Laura Mehigan, who says in a major report that a decarbonised all-island electricity system is key to achieving climate ambition on the island of Ireland.

“While this requires a significant level of renewable energy build-out, it also demands a resilient power system capable of absorbing and storing fluctuations in weather-driven generation, and at the same time, meeting the demand of new electricity loads from electric cars, residential heating, and data centres.

Ireland’s location on the edge of Europe presents a limited diversity of interconnection options and so our role within a greater interconnected European power system is also considered. 
Laura Mehigan


Due to its isolated grid, the current level of wind generation is limited to ensure system strength is maintained, the authors said.

Achieving a minimum of 70% renewable electricity by 2030 will require significant infrastructure investment as well as capacity to integrate new storage technologies, they said.

“According to the Government’s Climate Action Plan in Ireland, the level of wind capacity may have to increase by up to 300% to achieve the higher level of ambition but also to absorb new electricity loads from electric cars, electric heat pumps, and significant growth in Ireland’s data centre industry.” 

The all-island electricity system in 2030 will be different in scale and configuration from the system we see today, according to the authors.

The key findings of the report indicated that the system will be 40% larger in capacity and will emit half of the carbon emissions of today.

In 2030, we will need all planned electricity interconnectors: North-South, Ireland-UK, and Ireland-France in place. Back-up generation fuelled by natural gas will be essential but used less, they said.

In cold, windless, and cloudy conditions, where electricity demand is high but weather dependant generation is low, we will need all back-up generation to be available and all storage and system flexibility to be maximised.

A much more flexible and agile electricity grid will be needed to absorb the projected level of weather dependant generation, the authors said.

Read the article here