Grid25 is our network development plan, if you like. It is our €3.2bn investment in high-voltage transmission lines over the next eight years. We aim to reach targets of 40 per cent of electricity produced from renewable energy sources.
EirGrid plc was established in 2006 as the Republic of Ireland’s national electricity grid. Grid25 is an important programme, not only for EirGrid but also for the country as a whole. Ireland plans an ambitious overhaul of its electricity generation system over the next decade or so, and Grid25 will play a vital role in achieving its vision. Whilst 40 per cent of the country’s electricity is to be generated from renewable energy resources by 2020, the environmental implications form only part of what this initiative is aiming to achieve. EirGrid contends that the programme will be integral in Ireland’s economic recovery.1
In a busy exhibition hall at ESOF 2012, I spoke to Ciara Feehely, EirGrid’s Senior Communications Specialist, to find out more about Ireland’s grand plans for electricity generation. I began by asking Feehely to tell me more about EirGrid and its mission.
"EirGrid is the Transmission System operator for Ireland’s electricity system," she explained. "We are also the market operator for the all-Ireland market – a combined market that encompasses both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. We wear quite a few hats. Grid25 is our network development plan, if you like. It is our €3.2bn investment in high-voltage transmission lines over the next eight years. We aim to reach targets of 40 per cent of electricity produced from renewable energy sources. 40 per cent is a particularly high target if you take the mean average across Europe, so it is a big challenge to us here in Ireland to expand upon our existing grid.
"We are going to build 1000km of new overhead lines, and these will accommodate a lot of the wind resources on our western seaboard. We are also about to connect to the European market through our East-West Interconnector. This will give us access to secure supplies of electricity. We can bring in electricity when we require, and we can also export it when it’s appropriate."
I asked Feehely whether EirGrid was focused mainly on the use of wind energy, and about the extent to which other resources would facilitate the achievement of the 40 per cent target. As she explained, Ireland embraces renewable energy in all its forms, but it makes sense to play to the country’s strengths.
"Realistically, at this moment in time, we are talking predominantly about wind," she said. "Whilst there is a lot of research and investment in other forms of renewable energy, many of these are still at more embryonic stages. They are not yet commercially viable. Even so, we need to build a grid that is flexible to change. In eight years’ time, huge steps forward might have occurred within other technologies and our grid will be able to cope with, and embrace, these advances."
I concluded our interview by asking Feehely why it was important for EirGrid to appear at events such as ESOF 2012 in Dublin.
"We are very proud to be one of the sponsors of ESOF 2012," she replied. "EirGrid is a semi-State organisation, and as such, it is our job to implement government policy. Ireland’s government has a very clear and strong policy in terms of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and EirGrid is pleased to be able to help realise this ambition.
"We work with a lot of engineers," Feehely continued. "We have a great pool of top-class scientists, engineers and mathematicians, and we must ensure that this pool endures through to the next generation. One of the most difficult challenges that EirGrid faces comes from the public acceptance of high-voltage transmission lines. It’s a technology that seems to occupy a very abstract place in people’s lives. Motorways and railway lines have very clear and distinctive purposes, but this is not always so with high-voltage transmission lines. We need to make the most of opportunities to talk to people and to help them understand the necessary role that these lines play. High-voltage transmission lines enable citizens to achieve their business and lifestyle goals, so ESOF is a communicative opportunity that we wouldn’t want to pass up."1 What is Grid25?, EirGrid