The planned upgrade and overhaul of the electricity grid by ESB Networks “needs to happen at speed and at scale”, according to the Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF).

The MREF said that the upgrade needs to happen to deal with an expected 50% increase in demand to power transport and heat electrification, as well as “an explosion” in the number of renewable energy installations seeking access to the grid.

According to Pat Smith, the chairperson of the MREF, failure to carry out this upgrade in a timely manner would mean “significant amounts of renewable energy, especially from micro generators, will not be able to export surplus power to the grid”.

Smith said that this power would also not be available to fuel “the expected 1,000,000 EV (electric vehicle) cars and 700,000 e-heat homes by 2040”.

“Businesses and farms are already finding it hard to accept or understand the curtailment of micro-generation grid connections in certain parts of the country,” Smith said.

He said that he was aware of two business micro generators “in opposite sides of country” who applied for grid export of 100kw and were offered 11kw “due to poor grid infrastructure”.

He called for ESB Networks’ strategy planning needs to give priority to areas of the country that are currently experiencing restricted grid capacity.

“Key to ensuring that these grid upgrades happen at speed is effective communications with all stakeholders, that clearly outlines the purpose and need for such grid upgrades.”

Smith called on ESB Networks to engage in an “intensive national media campaign” to communicate the urgency of these upgrades and the investment in the electricity distribution grid that is being undertaken.

“There also needs to be early engagement with farmers, landowners and homeowners directly impacted by the planned network upgrade works,” he said.

Smith added that ESB Networks’ consultation document on the upgrades “gives an excellent summation of the challenges ahead”, and he encouraged all stakeholders to take the time to read it.

“It is heartening to learn that over 2,300,000 poles and 175,000 pylons supporting 157,000km of power lines across the country and most of this was built across lands with the support and goodwill of farm families.

“It was vital that this goodwill among key stakeholders is nurtured and supported to ensure that these necessary grid upgrades happen at the speed required to meet urgent climate change targets,” the MREF chairperson said.