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Eirgrid: Renewable Energy, Power Outage, and the Grid

EIrgrid Logo

Who are Eirgrid? Owned by the Irish government, Eirgrid is the electricity transmission operator in Ireland. It can get a bit confusing, as ESB Networks is the distribution network operator. Eirgrid is regulated by the CRU, the regulatory body for energy and water, and was set up originally in 2000 to enable competition in the Irish power sector.

However following the push to deregulate, they ended up taking over management of the transmission grid in 2006. Under ISEM, Eirgrid now own SONI (System Operator of Northern Ireland) and operate the all-island distribution network.


Transmission Network Operator (TNO), Distribution Network Operator (DNO), what’s the difference?

Once energy has been generated, at a power plant for example, its voltage is then increased (so less electricity is lost over distance) and it is moved to a substation along the transmission network. The transmission network transports the energy from its point of generation along transmission lines, which are much bigger cables and cable-towers than the lines outside your house.

Once at the substation, the electricity is then passed through a transformer to reduce the voltage enough to the level required for safe residential use, and sent out on the distribution network (the lines you see on the street outside your house).You then need to contract one of Ireland’s ten residential electricity suppliers to manage payment for your access to, and use of, the distribution network.

So in a nutshell, TNOs move energy from points of generation to substations, and DNOs move electricity from substations to near your home or other areas where it’s needed.


A graph showing Generation, to Transmission, to Distribution


Renewable Energy

As the DNO for Ireland, the responsibilities of Eirgrid include managing the power grid, the wholesale electricity market, and maintaining and developing the high voltage (transmission) electricity structure. Finding ways to integrate renewable energy is currently a high priority for Eirgrid. Eirgrid has designed a secure sustainable electricity system (DS3) programme in order to move Ireland closer to meeting its renewable energy sources targets.

Issues faced in integrating renewable resources to the grid include the fact that renewable energy supply tends to be “unreliable”: that is, it does not produce the same amount of energy all the time (think of wind energy - it's not always windy….). Yet Eirgrid’s efforts to integrate renewable electricity have been so successful that in 2018 they achieved a worldwide first: enabling the Irish energy grid to handle up to 65% renewable electricity at any time.

Eirgrid have also stated that they expect to have 75% renewable electricity on the grid by 2020. Ireland may be falling behind in meeting its carbon emissions and sustainable energy targets, but we’re certainly ahead of the pack when it comes to the infrastructure and technology required to be able to handle large amounts of renewable electricity.


Power Outage


Lightning at night over a town

So, as the TNO for Ireland, Eirgrid must be the guys to call when there is a power outage, right? Well, yes and no.

Eirgrid DOES schedule planned outages for maintenance, updating electricity-generation facilities, adding and removing transmission lines, and to resolve any other underlying issues. These outages are generally organized so as to cause the least disruption possible, although it’s impossible to avoid altogether.

Customers in areas affected are always notified ahead of time. So for queries related to planned outages, yes, Eirgrid is the point of contact. They also publish information on planned outages, although it’s a little jargony and hard to follow, in our opinion.

For unplanned outages, it’s generally not because of an issue with Eirgrid’s transmission network and is much more likely that the fault lies with the distribution grid. The distribution network is managed by ESB Networks and you can check the powercheck website to see if there is any information about outages in your area, or contact them directly.

Fallen Live WiresIf you see any fallen electricity wires, never touch or approach them as they are extremely dangerous. Please call emergency services straight away on 999, 112, or 1850 372 999.


The Grid


An electricity transformer tower

So, we know that we need electricity for just about everything in our day-to-day lives, but how did we get to this point? The beginnings of ESB Networks and Eirgrid, and the Irish electricity grid as we know it today, can be traced back to 1927.

After the successful Shannon Scheme (a hydroelectric dam) at Ardnacrusha, the ESB was formed to manage the electricity supply. At that time, incredibly, Ardnacrusha supplied 80% of Ireland’s electricity, yet nowadays only accounts for 2% of the amount needed. Boosted by the success of Ardnacrusha, the government then built more hydropower plants, harnessing 75% of Ireland’s inland water potential for electricity supply, by 1949.

Towns and cities were well connected to the grid, but many smaller villages were out in the cold, so the government began the rural electrification scheme. The visionary scheme meant that ESB connected over 420,000 customers to the grid between 1946 and 1979.

By the early 2000's, great strides had been made in power generation and transmission. All areas of Ireland (apart from some small islands which still depend on generators) are now connected to the grid, several power stations have been constructed, and 60 wind farms are connected. Renewable energy technology is also being integrated all the time, following a €22 billion investment programme which began in 2008 and continues today.

It is into this developed system that Eirgrid began operations as the TNO for Ireland in 2006.


Eirgrid Smart Grid Dashboard

A grey background with boxes indicating wind energy, renewables etc.
Source: Eirgrid

The Eirgrid Smart Grid Dashboard is a web app that allows users to see and compare all-island power system statistics and graphs, in one place. We checked it out and discovered several interesting options:

  1. You can partition data to see just data from the Republic, from the North, or all-island statistics.
  2. Information on system demand and system generation.
  3. Energy Market Pricing.
  4. CO2 Emissions.
  5. Wind Energy.

We like the dashboard as it provides real, up-to-date information about electricity in Ireland. We also think the renewable energy generation graphs and the CO2 emissions information are helpful to enable the general public to see how the struggle to meet our Paris Agreement targets is progressing.


Eirgrid Jobs


An electricity transformer tower

First of all, in order to apply for a job with Eirgrid you can try and spot openings on indeed.ie and LinkedIn, which are the two main channels they post new positions in. Or, just keep an eye on their careers page where they post all their current vacancies. You can also apply for the positions directly on the careers page.

Reviews of working at Eirgrid, by current and previous employees, are generally favourable. A wide range of work, the chance to work on innovative projects, and a sense of purpose and feeling integral to the future and success of Ireland, were areas which employees cited as bringing them great job satisfaction.

Some points of contention were the “bands” system for promotion and salary increases, changes to pensions, and general cost-cutting measures.

Eirgrid often looks for engineers and business graduates, although there are some financial controller and administrative positions available as well. Jobs advertised are evenly split between contract, permanent, and temporary positions.


Contact

Send a letter to...

Eirgrid, The Oval, 160 Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, D04 FW28.

Call...

01 677 1700

Fax...

01 661 5375


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