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Beggs writes to Utility Regulator about extended outage at Coolkeeragh Power Station

With the news that the 402MW Coolkeeragh Power Station was out of operation for longer than expected last week, Roy Beggs MLA, who has expressed concern about the security of the NI electricity supply, has written to the Utility Regulator and the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) questioning their assessment that Kilroot’s main units were not needed to maintain Northern Ireland’s electricity supply. He has requested that their technical assessment on the security of supply should be published and open to scrutiny.

Roy Beggs MLA said:

“Northern Ireland is a small electricity grid and as such is very vulnerable during planned and unplanned plant maintenances or outages that could cause blackouts and I have been asking for a re-think over the assessment that Kilroot was not needed.  

“I am aware that a recent forced outage at Coolkeeragh Power Station occurred when the plant failed to come back as planned after maintenance resulting in a longer period of time last week when the station was not generating. 

“This is exactly the scenario that I have been highlighting in terms of the insecurity of our electricity supply without Kilroot Power Station in the future – what if the 402MW from Coolkeeragh was not available to Northern Ireland during peak winter demand?

“Such an unforeseen outage could easily have resulted in significant electricity blackouts across Northern Ireland had the Kilroot power station and the Ballylumford B station unit, which are destined for closure, not been generating electricity. 

“This strikes me as exactly the type of scenario that the Regulator and SONI have been saying that they were confident would not happen.

“There are two questions that need to be answered:

“Would we have had blackouts last week in a peak winter demand situation if we did not have the two main units at Kilroot and both B Station units at Ballylumford B station which are presently deemed unrequired by SONI and the Regulator?

“Secondly we have had a capacity auction.   How did SONI take into account the variation in energy prices so that in future the NI consumer is not faced with more expensive overall generating costs such as the £300 per MWh spike?  The overall cost to the consumer will be the capacity auction cost plus the generating (and system services) costs.”

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