Wind energy provided over three quarters of Ireland’s electricity demand at times in October, peaking at 76% during the month, according to Gas Networks Ireland’s October demand statement.
However, due to the nature of intermittent renewable energy sources, there were times throughout the month when the wind supply fell away and provided as little as 1% of electricity supply.
Due to this variability of wind energy in power generation, Gas Networks Ireland’s head of regulatory affairs, Brian Mullins, has said the need for a reliable back up – such as gas – is underlined.
But with farmers and processors, and the agri-food industry in general, facing significant input-cost increases in fuel, fertiliser, feeds and labour, and with margins under pressure, the reliance on gas comes at a great cost to them.
Overall, wind met 35% of total electricity demand in October, making it the largest contributor to power generation – as it was during the same month last year.
Gas provided 34% of power generation across the month, peaking at 62%, while coal provided 15% and peaked at 25% – as it continued to be called upon significantly more than it was in 2020, when the October peak for coal was 12%.
The remaining electricity demand was met by the interconnection with the UK and other sources including oil, peat and solar.
A 2.8oC drop in temperature from September saw the use of gas for heating increase sharply month on month.
Education (97%), offices (85%), hospitals (54%), leisure (42%) and residential (21%) demand all rose from September figures but remain down year on year with 2020 recording colder temperatures.
The manufacturing and food and drink sectors were both down – 10% and 4%, respectively – when compared to September.
Year to date, overall gas demand is down 3% compared to this point in 2020, driven in part by the long-term outages at Huntstown and Whitegate power plants – but also by generally milder weather conditions as we headed into the peak winter season.
Commenting, Mullins said:
“October was a strong month for wind, in line with previous years with wind providing up to 76% of electricity generation but at times less than 1% of our electrical supplies.
“The variability of all fuel types in the electricity generation mix, particularly wind and solar, reiterates the importance of having a flexible and reliable gas supply.
“The gradual return of gas power plants to service should help address peak electricity demand in the coming months. However, this year has shown us that we need to ensure we have in place, the necessary thermal back up for renewables.
“As we drive for up to 80% renewable energy target, we need to have a secure back up in place, and that back up should be future proofed to accept renewable gases for the future.”