Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and French President Emmanuel Macron this month confirmed plans to build the 700MW Celtic Interconnector.
The Brexit crisis, volatile energy prices and discussions about how to enable high volumes of renewables have prompted Cornwall Insight Ireland to examine how the link between Ireland and France could boost efficiency.
Ireland is the only European nation with a significant Atlantic coastline but no offshore generating capacity, although six offshore projects are being constructed in the Irish Sea.
Cornwall said its research showed if the interconnector had been in operation over the 240 weekdays examined, power would have flowed from France to Ireland for 200 days, compared to 40 days in the other direction.
Cheaper French power would bring down Irish wholesale energy prices, the firm reported.
This balance might shift in years to come as Dublin invests heavily in renewables in an attempt to meet its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Ireland has a target of 40 per cent of electricity being generated from renewables by 2020, rising to 55 per cent by 2030.
Conall Bolger, Cornwall’s chief in Ireland, said: “As the direction of interconnector flows are primarily influenced by price differences between the markets, the level and timing of price variation between the markets matters.
“This analysis suggests that had an interconnector been in place, flows would predominantly have been from France to Ireland.
“This effect was more likely during the winter months, a period of traditionally higher demand and pricing in Ireland when the additional power would be welcome.
“In reality, the flows will be more complicated than this model suggests as the physical limits of the infrastructure play an essential role,” Bolger added.
“However, the market is moving in ways that suggest this project could be an important one.
“Ireland’s plans to increase our renewable fleet will impact on prices through price cannibalisation – where low-cost renewables drive down wholesale prices across the market – and contribute to price volatility.
“We have seen evidence of both effects with our current level of renewable generation since the opening of the new market in October last year.
“In comparison, France has a sizeable nuclear fleet which supplies a predictable flow of energy. This interconnector could help prop up prices during high wind output periods, depressing price spikes when the wind is not blowing.
“In the longer term, France is planning to reduce the size of its nuclear portfolio by 50 per cent by 2030; media reports note the French system operator has warned about a huge oversupply of power this summer, suggesting they may need markets into which to export. Ireland will continue to develop its renewable portfolio, suggesting they may need sources of flexibility. There is a potential alignment of interest.”
France is slowly moving away from nuclear power. Picture credit: Wikimedia