Across the world, there is mounting concern about the increasing insecurity of grid electricity in the face of the more violent weather caused by global warming and the new ease with which both cyberattack and physical attack can take place. Physical attack is facilitated by the increasingly common use of connectors between countries for gas and electricity. For example, the British are concerned that the Russians have been surveying its undersea connectors with France. A Russian cyberattack on Ukraine denied 225,000 people grid access two days before Christmas at temperatures of minus 20C. That was murder. People died but the international community turned a blind eye. However, even law abiding countries are getting jumpy about priority setting when sharing a grid so off grid power becomes increasingly attractive.
For example, Dublin's potential control over Northern Ireland's electricity supply is a major cause for concern, a leading academic has said in January 2018.
Dr Cillian McGrattan of Ulster University said the Irish Government's attempts to "destabilise" Northern Ireland, using Brexit as leverage, means the loss of Kilroot power plant "does not bode well,"
The politics lecturer said the earlier than anticipated dependance on the new integrated single electricity market (ISEM) north of the border could be exploited to undermine the current constitutional position.
"The Dublin government seem to be particularly tone-deaf to unionist concerns over the past while," he said. "So much so that they seem to be designing policy based on the old republican adage of 'England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.' That they are effectively using Brexit as leverage to destabilize the north does not bode well for any future influence they might possess, including control over power supply," Dr McGrattan added.
TUV leader Jim Allister expressed similar concerns, questioning whether the Dublin government's influence over the power suppliers will guarantee protection of supply north of the border.
Mr Allister added: "The announcement of approval for the North/South interconnector just days before the likely loss of Kilroot was probably choreographed to suggest all will be well. But the reality is that for the next three and more years there is little in place to guarantee our security of supply. We are heading into what I see as a largely unplanned transition to the ISEM which is probably driven more by the politics of securing an unalterable EU-tethered ISEM, than the best interests of Northern Ireland and its energy needs."
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said the impact of the closure of the coal-fired generators at Kilroot, and the risk to Ballylumford, would be "devastating".
He said every household in the greater Belfast area especially and businesses across Northern Ireland should be concerned about what this is going to do to the continuity of their electricity supply and the price of electricity.
Mr Wilson said both the Utility Regulator and SONI (Systems Operator NI) have questions to answer over the outcome of the electricity supply capacity auction process, added: "Both need to explain how the energy delivered by Kilroot in the past three years is now going to be delivered efficiently and without disruption. They have to explain how their assessment of the need for Kilroot in October 2017 has so suddenly changed."
Top image: AVA Technologies
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