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Ireland pushes EU to assist in post-Brexit energy security

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The Irish government is engaged in discussions with Brussels with a view to bolstering Irish energy security post-Brexit.

Among the projects being examined are a €1bn French electricity link, the Celtic Interconnector, and a €500m liquefied natural gas terminal, with Dublin seeking financial support, in order to reduce influence of the UK on the country’s energy system, once the UK departs the EU.
Celtic interconnector
Brexit threatens to isolate Ireland physically from the rest of the European energy market because all its imports of gas and electricity flow via the UK. The European Commission last month awarded €4m to pay for preparatory work on the proposed “Celtic interconnector” that would carry 700 MW of electricity — enough to power 450,000 homes — between the north-west tip of France and the south coast of Ireland.

At 600km in length, it would be one of the longest subsea power links of its kind in the world. Ireland would be able to access French electricity when needed and sell its own power into the European market when it had a surplus.

“It is important that we have direct connections into the EU and we are determined to make sure that happens,” said Denis Naughten, the Irish energy minister. The joint venture between EirGrid, the Irish power grid operator, and French counterpart RTE has been designated a “project of common interest” by the European Commission, making it eligible for EU funding.

There had been joint studies on the French link, prior to June 2016 but the link has now gained in importance post-Brexit with EirGrid currently conducting seabed and economic analysis.

Provisional EU support has also been offered for a proposed LNG terminal beside the Shannon estuary on Ireland’s west coast — a location that would open an attractive new entry point to northern Europe for burgeoning US gas exports. Again that project has been injected with momentum following the British EU decision.

Ireland uses the Corrib gasfield off western Ireland for its gas needs as well as using the UK-Ireland electricity interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as a connection with Wales.

The country also benefits from a single electricity market for the whole island, which now may be under threat.

Stephen Wheeler, managing director of the Irish business at UK utility SSE, told the Financial Times: “The single electricity market has been a huge success. Competition has increased, system stability has improved and costs for customers have reduced.”

Peter O’Shea, head of regulatory affairs for ESB, the state-owned Irish power group, which operates on both sides of the border, said there was a strong mutual interest in maintaining smooth and low-cost energy flows between the UK and EU. “Ireland north and south, Great Britain and Europe are all net importers of energy and have critical dependencies on each other,” he said. “I would hope that pragmatism will prevail.”

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